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We both need some therapy;Business links;Features and arts

There are many areas in which businesses and education can learn from each other, writes Ian Nash

Pupils and their families at Danum School in Doncaster will soon experience a novel way of rewarding a range of successes, from academic achievement to improved attendance and behaviour.

They will have the chance to win top-of-the-range merchandise from Marks amp; Spencer on future prize days. And the "bonus and incentive" scheme is based on the industry model observed by headteacher Martyn Vickers during a secondment to the company.

He has no qualms about refering to his school as an "enterprise" and using industry terminology to describe success. "I run a pound;5 million organisation with a budget that is virtually all delegated." Equally, his counterpart from Mamp;S, Richard Parkes, insists the high street stores should be seen as "learning centres" for staff.

At a special seminar held to review its progress, Doncaster Chamber of Commerce's business education "Twinning Programme" was praised by internationally-renowned management consultant Michael Colenso as a leader in the field of education-business partnership.

He says businesses and education can learn from each other in three key areas - leadership, "as this is the prerequisite for success in any field"; customer focus, "to keep all stakeholders satisfied"; and stress therapy. On the latter he says: "Education is under a great deal of stress - both camps could offer each other therapy. Much of what we see in education today is a simple desire to enforce the rules of the marketplace on our schools, colleges and universities. The aim is to make institutions compete with each other for customers just as the supermarket chains do."

The two-way exchange at Danum was mutually beneficial. Martyn Vickers says he gained valuable experience in areas such as "appraisal of staff, staff development, recruitment, customer care, and measurement of performance".

Richard Parkes says he improved his ability "to identify the needs of young people and how they should be treated in terms of progress at school and work".

Both reached the same conclusion - that the shared experience brought each a better understanding of the other's world and a gave them a clearer idea of how to encourage pupils and employees in need of skills training in an economically depressed part of Britain.

But Martyn Vickers warns of the danger in forging "too exclusive" a link. He says the value of headteacher exchanges is in a wider involvement with industry.

"For example, we give interviews with job entitlements to all our Year 11 students," he says. "That means finding 300 companies, not just one. Nor can one company provide the range of individual tutors and mentors we want from industry."

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