Business leaders urged to support schools

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Business leaders, entrepreneurs and successful schools are being urged to play a more active role in Yorkshire’s education system to help make it best in the country.

The Department for Education (DfE) has organised a forum which will encourage the private sector to get involved in the region’s schools to directly help shape their future workforce.

It is one of a series of events taking place next week aimed to raising standards in a region with too many struggling schools.

The DfE said leaders from education, businesses, faith groups and the wider community will be coming together to discuss how they can make “the education system in Yorkshire and Humberside the best in the country”.

It added: “Yorkshire is blessed with some great schools; it also has its fair share of schools that are struggling to deliver the kind of education that we would all like to see for our children.

“These events will be an opportunity to discuss some of the practical solutions for this and to share ideas for how the community can come together to support all its schools to succeed.”

The chairman of the DfE’s academy board Theodore Agnew and Schools Minister Lord Nash will be speaking at the events which are expected to invite successful schools and business people to consider becoming academy sponsors. The first event for community leaders takes place at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds on October 17 hosted by Canon Ian Wildey from the Church of England’s Diocese of Wakefield’s education department.

The following day events will be held for both business leaders and local head teachers and governors of high performing schools.

The business “symposium” will include speeches from a chief executive who has helped scores of firms to support schools in Leeds.

Stephanie Burras will talk about the success of the Ahead Partnership’s Make the Grade Programme which has provided a way in which businesses from the city can use their expertise to help schools.

The programme was set up in four secondary schools and their feeder primaries two years ago and has gone from strength to strength. Each school has a team of businesses providing support through volunteers.

Top professionals such as lawyers, business executives and bankers’ work in schools has included mentoring pupils to help them to hit their targets, work placements and competitions aimed at getting young people to develop entrepreneurial skills.

Ms Burras said the model has been popular with schools as it provides them with access to outside expertise with the work being funded by the firms involved. But she also stressed that it was “hugely beneficial” to the businesses involved.

She said the project gives its volunteers the chance to stretch themselves and work outside of their comfort zone and also gives the businesses the chance to work with young people whom they might want to recruit once they leave school. “It has also provided businesses with a great networking opportunity. As each of our schools will have a group of businesses supporting them,” she said.

The Make the Grade scheme recently completed its second year and is now embarking on a third. It has so far involved eight high schools, 19 primary schools and 107 local businesses.