Major corporations will open and run their own schools to educate the children of their employees within the next decade, a leading education academic has predicted.
In an echo of the model villages built by companies for their workers in 19th- and early 20th-century England, such as Bournville in Birmingham, large multinational businesses may set up schools as a perk for staff, according to Stephen Heppell, a futurologist and professor of education technology at Bournemouth University in the South West of England.
Professor Heppell said that schools would be a natural extension of the creches that many companies already provide.
"People today are always struggling with childcare and having to leave work to pick up their children, or dropping them off on the school run and then racing to get to work," he said. "If workers were able to drop their children off at their work then that is something that is very attractive. You could easily see somewhere such as Google setting one up."
In the US, charter schools - which are similar to independent, state-funded free schools in England - have been set up in office buildings, such as the New York City Department of Education, allowing parents to drop their children at school when they arrive at their workplace.
Free schools, which can be established by parents, teachers or companies, are the obvious option for corporations seeking to set up their own schools in England, although they could encounter difficulties over admissions policies.
It is understood that the Department for Education is seeking to attract major companies to open free schools, although a source within the department said that the idea was not being pursued in a "disciplined way" because of a lack of resources.
However, department officials have said that companies could set up schools near their offices, as long as they abide by the same rules that others have to follow when trying to establish a free school.
The idea has long been championed by the New Schools Network, a charity that helps groups to apply to set up free schools. Natalie Evans, director of the network, said that education, and how it equips young people for work, is of great concern to companies that play an active role in their local communities.
"Many employers already get involved in supporting local schools in various ways," she said. "And, although no easy task, setting up a free school could be a great way to offer something extra to their employees and to get directly involved in improving local education.
"I'm sure many parents would welcome the practical benefits of a school run that fits in with work, and would value working for an employer that invests in their community in such a tangible way."