Nicky Morgan asks business leaders to join the schools revolution
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan yesterday invited a gathering of England's top business leaders to "play their part" and apply their experience and expertise to improving failing schools.
At a House of Lords reception, top industry experts were encouraged to use their expertise to help transform young people's life chances to extend the recent wave of school improvement that has "swept much of the nation".
The Education Secretary also suggested that the finance and governance skills and experience of business leaders would help to build on the government's mission to deliver real social justice by ensuring children in all areas and from all backgrounds have the opportunity of attending an excellent local school.
At the event, hosted by Lord Fink, CEO of investment firm ISAM and trustee of Ark Schools, attending business experts and representatives from academy trusts across the country were encouraged to consider the wide spectrum of ways they can work together to improve standards in schools.
The event sought to highlight the importance of good governance in raising educational standards and business engagement, creating aspirational school leavers and underlining the need, in the government's opinion, for greater business engagement arising from its academies programme, the growth of chains and the challenge of tackling underperforming and coasting schools.
The 150 attendees consisted of business experts, including existing and potential academy non-executive directors and chairs, representatives from academy sponsors and the Department for Education's regional schools commissioners.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "There can be no more rewarding endeavour than applying a life's experience and skills to transforming the life chances of children. Business leaders develop the know-how to tackle some of our society's toughest problems and have the drive and energy to overcome challenges - qualities that translate directly to driving up standards in schools.
"Whether by founding or developing academy trusts, joining governing bodies to provide oversight and encouragement, or providing careers advice and mentoring, I am today calling for more business leaders to play their part and join the schools revolution".
Phil Jones OBE, President and CEO of Northern Powergrid, Regional Chairman of CBI Yorkshire and Humber and newly-appointed trustee of Pontefract Academy Trust, said: "Even though it's early days for me, it's been great to see that there really is scope for people with a business background to make a meaningful contribution to the way that education is delivered in our communities. I can already see that the advent of the academy trusts has opened up a much more significant opportunity for people like me to give something back".
David Adair, Head of Community Affairs at PwC, said: "Encouraging senior PwC employees to get involved with running schools allows them to share their expertise in a different environment from their day job.
"And more importantly it means we can have a direct impact on transforming the life chances of thousands of young people. Therefore I call on more leaders from industry to get involved in education, as the skills needed to succeed in business directly translate to those required to improve underperforming schools".
David Roper, trustee of E-Act academy trust and former co-founder and CEO of FTSE 100 engineering firm Melrose PLC, said: "Having sat behind a desk for forty years, I have found myself in a position where I have a strong team beneath me and had a little more time. I was looking to do something to 'give something back'. I was approached by John Nash who told me about the Academy Ambassadors programme and now I am on the board of E-Act.
"It is a very interesting role - I am learning something completely new and I can offer support on the finance and governance side. Coming from the private sector, I was unsure what to expect from the trust but I have been so impressed by the quality, professionalism and dedication of all of the people I have met and worked with".
Ashley Reid, Head of Wealth Portfolio Management at HSBC and non-executive director of Burnt Hill Academy Trust, said of working with schools: "This is an opportunity to work with a dynamic and successful team in a sector undergoing exciting change. Hopefully, I will be able to use my skills and experience to help them move through the next stage of their development and provide improved opportunities to an increasing number of children".
England's education system has been transformed since 2010, says the Department, thanks to the hard work of schools and the government's reforms:
1 million more pupils are now in 'good' or 'outstanding' schools
100,000 more 6-year-olds are now on track to become confident readers
the number of young people leaving primary school able to read, write and add up properly has increased from 75% in 2012 to 80% in 2015
the level of 16- to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training is at its lowest level since records began
The event was intended to build on these successes by encouraging businesses and academy trusts from all regions of the country to work together to improve underperforming and strengthen high-performing schools.