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Government welcomes new business taskforce to bring expertise from the boardroom to the classroom

05 Jan 2009

A new top-level Employer Taskforce is being launched by the Government today to spearhead a fresh drive to boost education by bringing more business expertise into the classroom.

The new taskforce, will have senior business figures including representatives from CBI and the Chamber of Commerce and will be chaired by Bob Wigley, the Senior Vice President and Chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Anthony Salz, Executive Vice Chairman of NM Rothschild. It will be set up with at least £1.5m of Government funding over three years and will focus on a range of priorities including improving literacy and numeracy in primary schools, making enterprise education more effective and supporting low performing schools through the National Challenge. Also today a new employer engagement strategy, Building Stronger Partnerships, was launched by the Government to encourage greater partnership between employers and schools to boost the learning and future prospects of children and young people.

Today’s initiatives follow key recommendations made by the National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE), set up by the Prime Minister, to look at how businesses and universities can work with schools and colleges to achieve educational excellence, building on existing good work.  One of the NCEE’s key recommendations was that every primary school, secondary school and college should have an effective link with a local business.  The new independent taskforce will take action to implement all the recommendations of the NCEE involving business and education.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

“These are tough times for our economy and businesses across our country. This is precisely the time that we must all ensure we are investing in the next generation. I have seen all around the country brilliant examples of businesses working with schools raising aspirations and making education come to life. This taskforce will help get every school and business involved.

“I am incredibly grateful to the firms and individuals supporting children and young people. Inspiring young minds is very rewarding and the employees who actually go into schools will soon realise the enormous boost they can get both personally and professionally by sharing their knowledge with young people.”

Schools Minister, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, said:

“Whether you are a big company, a small business, or in the public or third sector, there is a wide range of options for getting involved with education. In Building Stronger Partnerships we are setting out the opportunities for employers to get more involved with schools, colleges and other children’s services. We want to encourage more and stronger partnerships, and we also want to make it easier for you to get involved and develop these links.

“Partnerships between employers and education are of mutual benefit: they are a two way street. That is why, on the other side of this short guide for employers, there is a similar short guide for schools, colleges and children’s services, setting out how and why they can benefit from having business partners. “Employers make a real and positive difference to children and young people. So it is vital that schools, colleges and other providers do their bit. It is about business helping schools to help businesses.”

Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI said:

“While many businesses will be focusing on coming through the economic downturn in good shape, we also need to look longer term at ensuring young people are well prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive labour market. Employer involvement in schools has a key role in this. “The employer-led taskforce announced today should be an effective means of ensuring that the recommendations of the National Council for Educational Excellence are translated into a real step-change in the quality and quantity of education-business partnerships.”

Stephen Howard. Chief Executive of Business in the Community, said:

“BITC is pleased to support the creation of the employer-led Task Force. We are delighted that Bob Wigley has agreed to chair it and that Anthony Salz has also agreed to serve as co-chair. As well as being highly respected by other business leaders they have both been active supporters of education for many years and have ensured that their own companies and many others have built sustainable partnerships with education that help young people to make the most of their talents and achieve their potential.”

Bob Wigley said:

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to chair the new employer-led taskforce. The taskforce, which oversees education employer engagement, and will be co-chaired by Anthony Salz, represents a coalition of employers who are passionate about supporting education and providing young people with the opportunities and experiences they deserve. Employers recognise the major contribution that they can offer schools and colleges to add value to the education of learners and that schools, colleges and business have a lot they can learn from each other. “The Taskforce will work closely with government and senior representatives from education and business to help implement the NCEE business strand recommendations. We need to develop effective partnerships between education and employers to help ensure that young people can make the most of their talents and fulfil their potential.”

The employer engagement strategy provides a handy tool kit for employers, large and small, and schools and governors, with tips on what they can do to make a difference.

Ways employers can contribute to education and training include:

  • Encouraging their staff to become school or college governors;
  • Supporting National Challenge schools with the lowest GCSE results;
  • Providing work experience and visits to the workplace;
  • Going into schools to share expertise, give talks or help with lessons;
  • Becoming a business adviser to a group of young people or mentoring a child to  develop their skills and attitudes;
  • Helping expand apprenticeships and making them more relevant for employers and exciting for young people;
  • Working with schools, colleges, training providers and third sector organisations to reduce the number of those not in education, employment or training (NEET) through activities like careers education and work tasters;
  • Getting involved in local Education Business Partnerships with initiatives including enterprise education and setting up and supporting school-based business projects;
  • Working with local primary schools to provide volunteer staff who will help improve the reading and maths of 5-7 year olds;
  • Providing working scientists and engineers from local employers to go into schools to support teachers and engage pupils to continue studying science, through the Science and Engineering Ambassadors programme;
  • Joining the Diploma Champions Network which works to encourage support and long-term employer involvement in Diplomas and supporting young people taking the new extended project; and
  • Supporting new routes into teaching, including Teach First and Transition to Teaching (an industry-led programme to attract more people with science, technology and engineering backgrounds into teaching).

Employers can also get involved in wider activities to support the education and well-being of young people. For example, they could help improve play and youth facilities, provide opportunities for young people with special educational needs and disabilities or support parents by offering flexible working or childcare.

The employer strategy also provides a guide for schools who want to build partnerships with employers. The vast majority of schools and colleges already benefit from business links to support leadership and governance and business governors bring experience of areas like financial and legal skills.

It was also announced today that there will be a review of the quality of education business partnerships around the country, which the Edge Foundation have proposed to fund, advised by Ofsted.

There are two copies of "Building Stronger Partnerships" one for education and the other for employers, both can be downloaded here.

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