Business has a role to play in tackling the increasingly entrenched inequality in an education system in which the dominant driver of achievement is a pupil’s postcode.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says that the business community can create aspiration in schools where often a young teacher’s sense of “social mission” is quickly suffocated by obstacles and financial disincentives.
The cross party Commission On Inequality In Education , overseen by the Social Market Foundation , has highlighted the role of adults as the foundation of a child’s life chances. Schools with more experienced teachers do well, while children with engaged parents have more chances to succeed.
The report has presented a series of practical “nudges” towards addressing the issue including recommending high flying teachers spending three years in disadvantaged schools while increased subsidies would help teachers buy homes and reduce churn.
Into that mix, can come members of the business community. At the launch of the report in Westminster, chairman Mr Clegg said: “There does seem to be a lot of evidence that those schools that open their doors to businesses to come and speak to youngsters at a surprisingly young age can have a powerful effect on their aspirations.”
Fellow commissioner Conservative MP Suella Fernandes: “Because of the opening of the market for schools through free schools, there is huge opportunity for businesses to have an input into how many of our schools are running as well as a financial input.
“That can range from people coming in and talking about business and enterprise while financial literacy is an area where we need to start educating our young people.
“People who are on the frontline of business, people who have succeeded and have knowledge to impart can be invaluable to our young people because I don’t think they get enough exposure on what it is to be an entrepreneur. If we really want to generate the next generation of innovators, it needs to start early.”
Monitor social mobility
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock made reference to Wharf-based KPMG, which monitors which of its employees were on free school meals so it can assess social mobility within the company.
Mr Kinnock said: “All sorts of standards and quotas get set around gender balance and ethnic diversity but why aren’t we looking at people who had free school meals – and business deliberately, positively and promoting on that basis?”
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