Tech giants are the smart choice for school team-ups

8th July 2016 at 00:00
Teachers want to collaborate with technology firms – and most doubt the quality of their careers service

Technology giants top the list of firms that teachers would most like their schools to work with, according to new research.

Apple, Google and Microsoft were the three most popular choices among teachers, according to research by TES, the CBI and education charity the Varkey Foundation.

Presented with a list of the 20 most valuable businesses in the world and asked which one they would choose to work with their school, 31 per cent of more than 1,100 teachers polled chose iPhone manufacturer Apple. Google was in second place, with 21 per cent, followed by Microsoft, with 13 per cent.

Disney, the maker of huge film hits including Frozen and Wreck-it Ralph, was preferred by 82 teachers – or 7.1 per cent – overall, although nearly 13 per cent of primary staff said it was their top choice.

Companies producing treats and junk food fared less well in the poll. Only 16 teachers chose Coca Cola (1.8 per cent) and just 0.8 per cent, or nine teachers, opted for the fast-food firm McDonald’s. And in a move that bucks the trend of technology giants finding favour, only 2.2 per cent – or 25 teachers – picked Facebook as their preferred partner.

Fashion brands also struggled to gain traction with just 4 per cent of teachers choosing sportswear brand Nike and 0.3 per cent, or three teachers, citing Louis Vuitton.

Geraldine Davies, the principal of the UCL Academy, a secondary school in Camden, north London, said that the results were likely to be “more to do with where they saw the possibility for children in the future, rather than the popularity of the brand itself”.

She added: “They’re thinking about how technology will change people’s lives and the value of what they can do to enhance a child’s chances of success.”

Denis Oliver, executive headteacher of Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School in Cheshire, told TES that he would be likely to choose businesses with “ethical drivers” to partner with his school.

“If there’s a company that exemplifies the traits you want to bring out in children, that’s what I’d go for,” he said.

Careers advice falling short

The survey also revealed that more than half of teachers believe that their own school’s careers service was inadequate at helping pupils to make well-informed career choices. Fifty-five per cent did not think that their school was doing enough in this field.

Almost three-quarters of respondents (74 per cent) said that they would like businesses to play a “much greater” role in their school’s careers service and 87 per cent said that business had a role to play in supporting schools.

Asked how they would like companies to support their schools, the most popular choices were by providing opportunities for work placements; putting forward interesting speakers; sharing facilities; and offering training or apprenticeships for school leavers.

The findings have emerged after a committee of MPs warned this week that inadequate school careers services were exacerbating skills shortages and harming UK productivity.

A report from the Commons sub-committee on education, skills and the economy called on regulator Ofsted to start inspecting schools’ careers services. But Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “disappointing” that the committee had “reached for the big stick of Ofsted when there are severe problems in the existing system…which urgently need sorting out first.”

UCL Academy’s Ms Davies said that she was not surprised that the TES survey found 55 per cent of teachers doubted the quality of their own school’s careers service.

“Schools have found it difficult to access consistent, high-quality independent careers advice and guidance,” she said. “They still think it’s important, but it has practically disappeared from the government’s priority list. It’s been a real mess.”

‘Cinderella service’

In 2011, the government put schools in charge of careers advice – a responsibility that had previously sat with local authorities.

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy, a secondary school in Derbyshire, told TES that since the reform, careers education had become a “Cinderella service” in most schools and that in many cases teachers and heads were not well placed to advise their pupils on careers.

“With the best will in the world, I’ve been a teacher for 30 years,” he said. “I’m not an expert [on careers].

“Schools need a structure to help them connect with businesses because we don’t have that expertise in schools.”

Many schools had dropped work-experience schemes for Year 10 pupils since the government removed a requirement for this in 2012, he added. “There’s a big disconnect [between schools’ approach and employers’ demands]”, Mr Cottingham said. “We’re being asked to train people for an academic curriculum, but what employers are telling us is they want employability skills [such as] being able to communicate and work in a team.

“Those are things we know instinctively, as teachers, are important, but I don’t think they’re things our schools are prioritising enough because accountability measures work against it.”


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