The future success of British industry and long-term economic growth is closely tied to the future of educational reform. Raising school performance levels in UK schools to match the best in Europe could increase growth by more than 1% each year, boosting UK
GDP by £8 trillion over the lifetime of a child born today.
The number of academies across England continues to rise, but while the government’s efforts towards greater decentralisation and delegation of control to schools can provide freedoms allowing schools to deliver real improvements in the classroom, the government
must also ensure that these freedoms are not misused. Standards can, and must, be improved through strengthened governing bodies, the recruitment of school leaders with wide-ranging capabilities and closer cooperation between the education sector and industry.
Building Character, Improving Performance
The future strength and competitiveness of British business will be determined by the educational outcomes of young people in schools today. A high-performance business sector relies upon a highly educated workforce, measurable not only in terms of exam results,
but in terms of character too. The right attitude is every bit as important as the right answers and schools must ensure that young people enter employment with the skills, knowledge, conduct and attitudes required to succeed.
Young people look up to those in charge and the quality of leadership in schools is a significant factor in the educational outcomes of pupils. Enthusiasm, tenacity, confidence and ambition are just a few of the characteristics that schools need to foster in
their charges, and business can play an important role here. Business leaders with wide-ranging industry experience can bring to the education system exactly these kinds of qualities and more must be done to encourage such qualified individuals to take up
positions of leadership and governance in schools.
The Changing Role of Headteachers
For educational reforms to flourish properly, schools will require more people with business and industry experience to take up positions of influence, not only sitting on governing bodies, but as the heads of schools. At the same time, current head teachers
must be supported in developing their skills, including gaining wider commercial experience. At present, 70% of headteachers in England have no leadership experience outside education. This contrasts sharply with other high-performing school systems and lags
behind the global average. In Alberta province, Canada, for example, over 70% of headteachers have leadership experience from outside of education, while in Singapore the figure is 50%.
With successive government reforms, the role of headteachers is fast becoming more like that of a company chief executive. Modern headteachers are required to institute effective management practices, balance budgets and understand the demands of the labour
market as well as the demands of pupils and parents. Providing structured opportunities for headteachers reared in the education sector to develop skills in other fields will be of great benefit to the young people in the schools which they lead. At the same
time, businesses that can properly utilise the extensive experience of headteachers – including the skills and knowledge gained from years of working with young people – will be well served by periodic recruitment of such individuals.
It is clear that business leaders and education professionals can work together, learning from and benefiting each other. Far from being discrete operations, there are obvious parallels between the role of governing bodies in holding school leaders to account
for their performance and that of corporate boards in evaluating the performance of their senior executives. Educational and corporate boards are similarly responsible for developing a vision and strategic direction that will most effectively serve their school
or company. However, many school governing boards are still offering an inadequate level of support to headteachers and improvements could be made by more concrete adaptations of industry practice.
As well as school governing bodies, schools themselves could benefit from studying the lessons of industry. For example, the way that corporations manage and evaluate performance and provide a clear framework for employees could be adapted to give teachers,
as well as school leaders, a clearer understanding of the ways in which they are expected to work and will be held accountable. Both schools and companies must define and champion a set of values that inspire and can be aspired towards by those working – or
studying – under them.
In these ways and more, education and industry sectors can learn from each other and work together to ensure not only future economic growth, but the realisation of young people’s potential.
Look out for part 2 of Berg’s Leadership and Governance in Education Series. We’re teaming up with Dame Kathy August DBE to host an exclusive event on the future of
Leadership and Governance in Schools and if you’re interested in finding out more, book a place at this free to attend event
(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice
should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)