Susie Perrett, Director for Education, gives her analysis of the trends shown by the entries to this year's Education Award entries.
BITC’s Education award seeks to recognise UK school-business programmes that endeavour to prevent social background predicting a young person’s success at school and beyond. Sadly, young people who are born into low-income families, regardless of their talent or hard work, do not have access to the same opportunities as those born into more privileged backgrounds. Responsible employers, such as the entrants to this year’s Education Award, are taking steps to address inequality, recognising that social mobility is good for business as well as society as a whole.
The winner of this year’s Education Awards, Glasgow Caledonian University, received unanimous support from the judges. GCU’s approach embodies many of the best aspects from across the award entries and the judges felt that there was a great deal to be learnt from their approach.
A key thread of all the entrants was their commitment to creating long term partnerships rooted in the community, enabling young people the opportunity to engage with local employers. This matters because young adults who recall four or more employer contacts are five times less likely to end up NEET (not in employment, education or training).
Many of the programmes entered have already been running for several years, with plans to continue into the future. However, the extent of this year’s Education Award winning entry particularly impressed the judges. Glasgow Caledonian University set up The Caledonian Club project in 2008 with five communities in areas of multiple deprivation in Glasgow. In each community, GCU work with a nursery, primary and secondary school to ensure the young people engaged have support throughout their educational careers and beyond. Some of these young people have subsequently gone on to study at GCU, and have become student mentors helping deliver The Caledonian Club project, acting as role models as well as continuing to develop their own skillsets.
Although not all businesses will be able to make the same level of commitment as GCU, we emphasise the need to take a long term approach and work with schools in a strategic way to ensure young people have multiple opportunities to benefit from quality interventions with businesses.
Taking a holistic approach is increasingly common among Education Award entrants. As well as engaging young people directly, many businesses are working to develop the skills and knowledge of teachers, school staff and parents/carers. This approach means that the impacts of activities are likely to be sustainable and provides an opportunity for business support to be amplified across the school. It also means far more young people can be reached then could be directly engaged. Again, GCU’s entry exemplifies a best practice approach to holistic engagement. The project works with not only young people but their parents, teachers and the broader community. Since 2008, 3,000 parents have been involved, raising their aspirations for their children as well as for themselves. Following involvement with the Club, the number of parents interested in attending university themselves increased from 37% to 59%.
We were pleased to see evidence of collaboration and co-creation across many award entries, because educational inequalities cannot be solved by schools or businesses in isolation. By working together, many award entrants have developed unique solutions to the issues faced by young people. Working together we can help ensure all young people, whatever their background can achieve their full potential.