Partnership is not charity. It is the best way to utilise limited resources for mutual benefit. The business case for commitment to partnerships in education is the need to build world class skills, competencies and aptitudes relevant to the fast changing technologies of the workplace and to tackle the "tail" of under-achievement which threatens the economic and social well-being of the UK.
Business in the Community, the UK leading authority for corporate community involvement, recently consulted leading companies on education and found that standards of achievement in the UK education system are by far the most important concern of business. Companies are increasingly investing resource and expertise in proven partnership programmes which help raise standards in education and improve student performance - the supply side of competitive skills. In response Business in the Community's Aim High campaign has been set up to encourage all types of companies to work with schools and colleges to help raise levels of achievement in schools and colleges towards the National Targets for Education and Training. The BT Aim High Awards demonstrate how business can help raise standards through partnership.
Directors of Marks Spencer often summarise their rationale for tackling low achievement as "prosperous highstreets need prosperous backstreets." Many leading figures on company boards are fully aware that the 30% underclass identified by Will Hutton in his book "The State we are in" as the unskilled and virtually unemployable base of a divided 303040 society is economically and socially unviable. To this end the CBI Policy Group under Dominic Cadbury recently published "Passport to Skills" calling for world class outcomes in Foundation Learning - basic literacy and numeracy, key skills for work and flexible learning, advanced level 3 academic or vocational qualifications for the vast majority and effective career and individual learning planning. Likewise Business in the Community's major companies have committed to take action on basic skills 4-11, young people at-risk and improving the management and performance of schools, focusing on disadvantaged communities (inner cities, deprived housing estates, declining industrial zones and areas of rural poverty) where under-achievement is creating the all too costly "underclass. " In addition, companies are now working with the new Government on "Welfare to Work" and "New Deal" schemes through work placements with training and Millennium Volunteer programmes targeting "the lost generation" of under-educated youth which threatens long-term social cohesion and economic growth.
Our future prosperity, the life-chances of our children, the social cohesion of our society and the future wealth and tax-base which funds the public sector services depend more than ever on the competitive performance of the UK education system. Business must play a major part in partnership with teachers, government and the voluntary sector to raise standards overall and tackle under-achievement.