The mutual benefit of schools partnering with business

Rachel Saunders, Education Director at Business in the Community speaks of the success of business partnering with schools. 

There has been an active debate, since CBI President Paul Dreschler’s speech at the ASCL conference, about the legitimate role of business in education.  If we are to have a partnership between schools and business that really works, we need to be clear about motives, and integrity.  

In Business in the Community's  experience, businesses support schools for a whole range of reasons - yes, because they want to develop a future talent pipeline, and because visibility in a local community can help with brand and with reaching customers.  If those were the only drivers though, education would not have the level of support that it does from business.  There are two powerful reasons why businesses are passionate about supporting schools.  One, business leaders understand the vital importance of successful schools to a successful country, economy, and therefore business.  This is where being a responsible business and a successful business are one and the same.  The second major driver is the powerful impact on employee engagement - which means, people who work in business love supporting school leaders, engaging with young people and passing on their knowledge and skills.  A business that partners with one or more schools and creates opportunities for its employees to support that school, has a more motivated workforce. 
It might be expressed in a different way, but the passion that drives teachers and other educationalists is the same as the commitment and enthusiasm that keeps businesses partnering with schools.  I work with business leaders who are deeply embedded in support for specific aspects of the curriculum and others who have long standing mentoring relationships with head teachers, or who regularly attend parents evenings to talk to families about how to plan for their children’s futures. This isn’t cynical, and it goes well beyond quantifiable self-interest.  It is real commitment.  

In reality, this debate, if it ever had currency at all, belongs in the past.  We have set up school business partnerships to scale - through Business Class we set up 550 school business partnerships, and the CEC now has an Enterprise Adviser in half of all schools.  Head teachers value the contribution business can make to children’s futures.  Let’s move on from this artificial divide and work in partnership to build a better future for us all.