February 2018


  • Relish the change
    Geoff Barton reflects on his personal journey at ASCL over the last few months and how 2017 has led to a shift in thinking around wider education policy and context. More
  • Real world, real learning
    Businesses can support schools and colleges in preparing students for life and even help develop resilience, says Confederation of British Industry (CBI) President, Paul Drechsler, but they need to understand the challenges that educators face if they are to help young people gain the skills and knowledge the country needs. Here, he talks to Julie Nightingale. More
  • Getting ahead
    Deputy Headteacher Allana Gay explains the philosophy behind Black, Asian and minority ethnic educators (BAMEed), the network helping ethnic minority staff aspire to leadership roles. More
  • Shaping careers
    Senior Research Manager Claudia Sumner says the government's new careers strategy is a step in the right direction, but research shows that a combination of measures are required for a successful, long-term solution to careers guidance. More
  • Next steps
    Two essential questions to answer in the quest for a headship or principal post are: Is it what I want and, Am I what they want? Aiming to join a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) as its leader requires you to consider these in order, says former ASCL President Allan Foulds. More
  • Plan for all seasons
    A curriculum represents the entire daily experience of each pupil, so designing it and evaluating its impact requires deep and detailed thinking. ASCL Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Suzanne O'Farrell sets out the key areas for consideration. More
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Businesses can support schools and colleges in preparing students for life and even help develop resilience, says Confederation of British Industry (CBI) President, Paul Drechsler, but they need to understand the challenges that educators face if they are to help young people gain the skills and knowledge the country needs. Here, he talks to Julie Nightingale.

Real world, real learning

Businessman Paul Drechsler visits classrooms to talk to young people about the world of business and because business is about doing not just talking, he sets them a challenge. “Recently, I was in a class of 14 and 15-year-olds where I started by asking the students how many of them enjoyed maths and nobody did,” he says. “So I gave them a scenario: a very successful business leader offers every one of you a job for 30 days. You have either of two salary options: one he pays you a penny on the first day, doubles it on the second and so on and every day for 30 days. Or he offers you £1 million – which do you want?”

By the time they worked out that a penny was the better option – accruing more than £10 million over the month – they were “pretty excited”, he says. “They saw that maybe maths can help them make better choices in their lives.”

Bringing real world matters into the classroom is where Paul believes business has something unique to offer schools, and it will be one of the themes of his keynote speech at the ASCL Annual Conference, 9–10 March in Birmingham. He will be there in his capacity as President of the CBI – he is Chairman of shipping group Bibby Line Group Ltd and a former Chief Executive of the privately owned construction firm Wates Group – and as an educator, through his roles as Chairman of Teach First and formerly on the board of Business in the Community (BITC), where he chaired its Education Leadership Team.

Different worlds

By giving students a real-world context for their learning – whether it’s the use of a language to trade overseas, creative thinking around how to market a product or how problem-solving skills and teamwork matter in the workplace – business can help schools to prepare students for life and even help build resilience, he thinks. And it is hardly a new idea: he points to the many high-quality business and employability interventions already available. BITC’s Business Class programme (https://tinyurl.com/ydhvge48), for example, pairs schools with businesses and includes a detailed analysis of a school’s needs around topics such as leadership and governance, curriculum, enterprise and employability. Businesses go through a similar process before being matched with a school. An action plan is devised and the partnership is supported all the way through by BITC. More than 500 schools and 1,000 companies have taken part.

But for a school/college–business relationship to work authentically, business must make a genuine effort to understand the school/ college organisational model and how people manage a school or college, Paul says:

“They are quite different worlds, so if business is to engage with schools and colleges in a meaningful way, they need to understand that learning at the different stages – pre-school, primary, secondary and post-16 – presents different challenges and opportunities for teachers. Business also has to know that each school’s or college’s challenges and opportunities are largely determined by the community they serve. We should start any engagement with this deep understanding, then businesses need to see schools and colleges as they would a customer, and asking so what can we do to help the school or college to be more effective? Then we prioritise our efforts to the areas of greatest impact.”

For school and college heads and principals specifically, businesses have specific strengths in the key areas of leadership and governance that they can draw on, he says.

“I think every school or college should have at least one or two governors available to it who are from the world of business who can support, help and advise the leadership team. There are many management challenges that people in business will have experienced and they can also be pretty good at solving problems because that’s, by and large, what we do in the world of business.”

Reboot work experience

Work experience, the area where businesses have traditionally supported their local schools and colleges with placements and practical experiences, needs a reboot, he thinks.

“One challenge today is the availability of high-quality work experience. I think we have to be broader in how we give young people experience of life and teamwork outside school. Work is one environment but there are other formats, such as the #iwill campaign (www.iwill.org.uk) for youth social action which promotes the idea of 10 to 20-year-olds doing volunteering, fundraising or working in their community. There are lots of examples of people doing brilliant stuff around learning how to work with other people.”

In the future, Paul maintains that, in spite of the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), the very basic skills that education has always prioritised will only grow in importance as the working world evolves.

“The fourth industrial revolution, with globalisation as well as AI, offer some fantastic opportunities – but they are for those children who are best prepared,” he says. “Irrespective of what else is happening, the fundamental skills of reading, writing, maths and digital skills are going to be even more important in the future as that’s ultimately how the human being will be able to demonstrate their ability to make a difference.”

Digital skills is something that the next generation is now born into but we need to make sure that they have developed a deep understanding of technology, as opposed to just an intuitive one, he adds.

“And when you get beyond the technological skills, what do a lot of young people need? They need to know how to interact with other people and have the ability to learn and adapt because things will change rapidly. Some adjustments will be incremental and some will be huge. Teamwork will be increasingly important – not only when the team is in the same room but when it is in different places. And it is a world of hard knocks, so resilience, the ability to recover when there are setbacks and disappointments is pretty crucial.”

The Brexit generation

The other factor reshaping the economic landscape for the UK is, of course, Brexit and while there is a long road ahead between now and March 2019, when the UK is set to leave the European Union (EU), Paul says that young people’s needs must be central to how it is managed.

“I visited a school a few weeks ago and I asked a classroom of 14 to 15-year-olds ‘What do you think is the biggest challenge that business faces in the UK?’ and they said Brexit. For me the number one consideration is what is it we are going to do to ensure that the next generation walks into a better world with better opportunities than their parents did? Making a success of Brexit is our duty to the next generation. It’s not about the whims of today.”

ASCL annual conference

President of the CBI, Paul Drechsler, is a keynote speaker at ASCL Annual Conference on 9-10 March 2018 in Birmingham. Find out more and book your place online at www.ascl.org.uk/annualconference

Julie Nightingale
Freelance Education Writer