Ministers fail to sell new business links

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Businesses would probably be involved with schools whether or not the Determined to Succeed strategy to promote enterprise in education had been launched by Scottish ministers, according to a new report.

The latest analysis of businesses' perceptions of the pound;88 million strategy has been reinforced in less than flattering comments by the Institute of Directors in Scotland and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

David Watt, director of the IoD in Scotland, said in an interview with Holyrood magazine that the strategy should be delivered through chambers of commerce or at least with their involvement, since teachers had little idea of business practice.

In a letter to Peter Peacock, Education Minister, Alan Wilson, chief executive of the SCDI, which includes educational institutions in its membership as well as businesses, agreed that channelling money through local authorities made the initiative less effective than previous enterprise education programmes led by the private sector.

The new research follows earlier findings, published in February, which recommended a "publicity blitz" on employers to make them more aware, particularly in light of the fact that 47 per cent of businesses said they would like to become involved if they were contacted. The Scottish Executive insists it is doing so.

Ministers want to see partnership agreements drawn up between businesses and every school by next year, based on five agreements per school cluster - 2,000 in all.

The latest survey found that, while the businesses which responded were all aware of the Determined to Succeed strategy and its underpinning philosophy, there was only limited awareness of its 20 recommendations.

"Businesses held the attitude that they would be engaged in opportunities with schools regardless of the existence of the DtS strategy," it reported.

"Some expressed the sentiment that involvement with schools was something that they would be 'doing anyway'."

The study divided the 24 businesses into two groups - those the researchers believed had been engaged in Enterprise in Education opportunities with schools since before the launch of Determined to Succeed, and those they believed to have been engaged only since the launch.

It emerged, however, that both groups had been engaged all along. Those it had been assumed were brought into enterprise in education through Determined to Succeed were, in fact, discovered to have had well-established and highly structured policies in place.

The study found that, while companies were generally positive about enterprise in education, they also wanted better feedback about whether they were making a difference to young people. The report recommends improved communications between the Executive, local councils and businesses.

It states: "This communication should specifically target those businesses already engaged in DtS as well as trying to attract new businesses to DtS."

The authors fear that the current approach could have "a detrimental effect on businesses' perceptions of DtS, enthusiasm for enterprise in education and future business commitment to DtS strategy."

The study of 24 businesses across 10 local authorities also found concern among some about the extent to which teachers understood the business world, including teachers' willingness to work out of their usual hours.

However, it concluded that these were "minor concerns and were expected to dissipate over time".

Despite the Executive's insistence on setting up partnership agreements by next year, the study found that this format was best suited to businesses which in the past had been only lightly involved with schools.

Employers that already had a relatively long history of engagement with schools tended to find partnership agreements "a rather unnecessary appendage to their informal agreement".

A Qualitative Assessment of the Impact of Enterprise in Education and the Determined to Succeed Strategy on Businesses. By Adam HendersonTNS System Three.

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