Minister launches plan to bring business expertise into schools

PUPILS have been impressing a Government minister with their business brains as part of a Dragons Den style event marking the expansion of a programme which has seen firms in Leeds working with schools to make young people more employable.

By John Roberts Education Correspondent
Sunday, 16th March 2014, 4:21 pm
Lord Nash meets pupils
Lord Nash meets pupils

Schools Minister Lord Nash has launched the rolling out of the Make the Grade Programme across the Leeds City Region.

The project run by the Ahead Partnership has seen businesses send their staff to help mentor pupils in inner-city schools.

It was originally set up in four Leeds secondary schools and their feeder primaries just over two years ago and has gone from strength to strength. Top professionals such as lawyers, business executives and bankers’ work in schools has included mentoring pupils to help them to hit their targets, work placements and competitions aimed at getting young people to develop entrepreneurial skills.

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Now it has been given £1m lottery cash to work to expand across the entire Leeds City Region with the aim of reaching 14,000 young people.

It has so far involved eight high schools, 19 primary schools and 107 local businesses in Leeds.

To mark the expansion of the programme Lord Nash met pupils taking part at a dragon’s den style event which was held at Asda House in the city.

Pupils from Cockburn School, Ralph Thoresby, Roundhay School and Swallow Hill Community College in Leeds pitched their ideas for new pet treats that could be sold in the supermarket this Christmas.

A team from each school had to present their proposal with details about ingredients, product design, pricing and its unique selling point to Asda bosses and Lord Nash.

The minister said: “We want employers and schools to work closely together to ensure children are prepared for the world of work.

“That is why I am pleased to support the Make the Grade initiative, which helps build these crucial relationships while motivating children to take on exciting and practical projects.”

Stephanie Burras, the chief executive of the Ahead Partnership, said: “Following two years of engagement with both business and education providers, we have received encouraging commitment to the scheme with 13 partnerships already developed. The Make the Grade model is unique in the UK and provides a very flexible architecture for schools and businesses to tap into and benefit from. We are thrilled that our model can now be rolled-out to the wider city region and look forward, long term, to this being a national initiative.”