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What next for Business in the Community and Education?

Rachael Saunders, Education Director at Business in the Community, on the change that is needed to make the most of the talent and ability of every child in the UK

I have been Education Director at Business in the Community for 61 days – I am counting! There is a huge depth of knowledge amongst our members and our staff team – a strategic review that UBS supported us to undertake earlier this year made it possible for me to work at speed with the education leadership team, to set out the next steps for the campaign. 

My call to action is for every business to collaborate to make the most of our knowledge of what works and scale up so we can have the greatest possible impact for children across the UK, as well as build the recruitment pipeline business needs for a successful future.   

Our purpose is for business to play its part so that every child, especially poor children, achieves in education and has a successful working life and is thriving in business. 

Our mission is to take what we know, and achieve the transformational change that is needed to make the most of the talent and ability of every child in the UK. 

Our cause

The need for businesses to collaborate with schools is crystal clear.  3.7 million children, 30% of the total number of children in the UK, live in poverty.  Of the 30 OECD countries, the UK is the 7th most unequal, and the 4th most unequal in Europe. 

Children that grow up in poverty are less likely to succeed, at school and then at work.  That is a tragic waste of talent.  We are here to break that cycle. 

Our purpose

Our purpose is for business to play its part so that every child, especially poor children, achieves in education and has a successful working life, thriving in business. 

This is good business sense.  Employers need a recruitment pipeline of young people with the knowledge and skills needed in the world of work. There will be 21.8m people chasing low and intermediate skilled jobs by the middle of the next decade – a surplus of 8.1m – while there will be 4.2m highly skilled jobs that cannot be filled by the right candidate. 

What works

With close to 10 years of running Business Class, we know what works in school business collaboration: 

  • Clarity of purpose and a shared understanding of the outcomes sought by both the school and the business.
  • Senior leadership buy in from the school and the business.
  • Long-term commitment from both sides, with the best results being gained in partnerships that have had time to develop.
  • Regular communication.
  • Physical proximity.
  • A one to one relationship between a school and a business.
  • Back up by local clusters that allow schools and businesses to share knowledge, experience and support.
  • Flexibility in the programme to match local need and develop a genuine partnership.

And we know the powerful impact that such a partnership can have:

  • More than 80% of pupils reported that their confidence or aspirations had been boosted.
  • 82% of schools believe that staff and pupils are better equipped for the future as a part of the partnership.

Which interventions matter most?

  • Work experience – 90% of Business Class pupils said they would work harder at school as a result of work experience.
  • Those with a high level of individual engagement between the business volunteer and the pupil – such as mentoring.
  • Opportunities for a broader perspective from the business volunteer – an opportunity to discuss their personal story, as well as hear about their job and company.
  • Career skills – CV help or interview skills that will help pupils get jobs in the future.

Business Class was first developed in the north west of England, and was scaled up from 2007 so that at its peak we had 500 school business partnerships across the UK.  We now run Business Class ourselves in more than 200 schools, with a powerful alumni network of businesses who are confident to go it alone, maintaining their strategic relationsh6ip with schools directly. As well as broader impact through businesses such as BP, who have a huge footprint in education, with the Business Class framework key to its success.  Business Class will continue to be the place where we develop best practice, test what works, and innovate to address new challenges. 

Test and innovate

There are three areas, all within the Business Class framework, which we have chosen as areas of focus for continued innovation. 

  • Leadership
  • Resilience
  • Engaging parents

On leadership – we will scale up the mutual support school and business leaders can offer one another. 

On resilience – we will develop experiential learning that business can offer to help children and young people develop the cogitative skills they need to succeed, building on for example, the Skills Builder framework developed by Enabling Enterprise with support from members of the Fair Education Alliance, including BITC.    

On parents and carers – there is a clear evidence base that engaging parents in learning helps children’s attainment.  We will test whether that works in enterprise and employability skills.  We have some stories of businesses attending parents evenings, supporting breakfast clubs, and making a real difference.  BITC is well placed to take a “whole community” approach, and think about how we engage parents and other community influencers more effectively to support children’s achievements and ambitions, and trust in the knowledge of business.

I would love to hear from businesses interested in collaborating to take this early thinking forward. 

Scale and impact

We know what works, and are determined to take it to scale. 

Prudential is leading on mobilising business in primaries. 

Goldman Sachs, and their 100k Small Businesses programme, is working with us and the Careers and Enterprise Company on how to increase SME engagement in education. 

We are opening up the knowledge we have developed through 10 years of Business Class, and creating tools and advice that will enable every business to have the greatest possible impact in education.  A workshop on what to know before you approach a school, insights into the needs and priorities of a head teacher – we can help you get started. For members with long standing schools engagement, our tools and advice can help you measure your impact and take your programme to its next level.  Work with us to run a twilight session for teachers to gain an insight into your business. Use our Careers Lab tools to equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. 

A lot done, a lot to do – let’s get to it.