The growth of academies and free schools in England has given many schools freedom from local authority control. What’s in it for the business sector? The answer is, quite a lot, actually. The bottom line is that it gives the business sector a far greater say in what teachers teach and what pupils learn.
With deregulation of the school sector has come a major shift in the landscape of continuing professional development for teachers.
Where once upon a time, much of teachers’ on-the-job training was delivered by their local authority employers, the market for provision of CPD is now much more open – and businesses can make a real impact on the classroom.
Now, with an increased emphasis in the national curriculum in England on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – there are significant opportunities for the private and third sectors to become providers of training in these subjects.
Whether that be the Raspberry Pi Foundation training computer science teachers how to build its credit-card sized computer board or, at the other end of the spectrum, ICT giants like Microsoft delivering CPD in their latest innovations, there are numerous opportunities to engage teachers in the latest industry developments – and through them, their pupils.
Another popular route into schools is the STEM Ambassadors programme. More than 2,000 employers, large and small, are already working with STEMNET. Employees can apply to be STEM Ambassadors free of charge and once they have been registered, trained and CRB-checked, they become part of a network of more than 24,000 people across the UK, all keen to share their expertise with teachers, technicians and pupils.
From a business perspective, STEMNET delivers the benefit of succession planning and strengthens the knowledge economy – important business drivers.
While teacher unions have expressed concerns that the quality of CPD is variable – with some courses quite simply not fit for purpose – tighter education budgets should also mean that senior managers of whatever type of school now demand more “bangs for their bucks”. The philosophy behind much of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s reforms is to make schools more accountable to parents. And that should mean that school leaders strive harder to deliver a high quality education.
The loosening of regulation in the English education sector is at odds with the direction of travel north of the border. Implementation of a highly-influential report, “Teaching Scotland’s Future”, written by the former senior chief education inspector in Scotland, Graham Donaldson, means that Scottish teachers now face increasing duties and expectations in terms of their professional development. But businesses there too are encouraged to engage with the teaching profession.
The owners of the Grangemouth petro-chemical refinery, INEOS, are just one of many who run CPD courses for teachers of science and design technology. Its aim? – “to promote the knowledge of polymers and their importance to the quality of everyday life and therefore enhance the image of plastics and the plastics industry in the eyes of future consumers” – in other words, to promote its industry to young people.