Free schools to benefit from Barclays' initiative
The host of free schools popping up in the UK will be boosted after Barclays offered its expertise to help with their setting up and running.
Those that could stand to benefit include Canary Wharf College, which was established last year, and the recently proposed International Academy of Greenwich, which aims to start classes in 2013 if approved by the Department for Education.
Barclays' proposals, agreed with Education Secretary Michael Gove, include offering free financial advice, providing online business training programmes and encouraging hundreds of staff members to work with the schools.
Sarah Counter, headteacher of the Isle of Dogs' only free school Canary Wharf College, said she supported Barclays' involvement with the initiative.
Her establishment is not taking advantage of the offer of financial advice as one of the school's governors is a managing director at Citibank, but she said the move would be "immensely helpful and a great value" to others.
She said another initiative offered - free banking to new free schools and academies - would be very beneficial to start-ups.
"This would have been wonderful for us when starting up last year as we had immense difficulty in setting up an account," she said.
She did say she would be interested in Barclays' offer of online training materials if it was available to younger children.
However, not all are satisfied by the proposals. The National Union of Teachers has long spoken out against the free school initiative and it was also sceptical of Barclays' move.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "This is, of course, Michael Gove's vision for the future of education in this country.
"It is extraordinarily flawed and will most certainly result in a two-tier system.
"The involvement of any successful business in a school will surely be decided on what returns they can reap for themselves."
However, Barclays Retail and Business Banking chief executive Antony Jenkins said it was win-win for everybody involved.
"Barclays is supporting free schools and academies because we want to boost financial skills for young people," he said.
"By providing financial awareness training and valuable work experience we can help young people to contribute to and share in future prosperity."