Tycoons give a business class lesson for schools

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The Independent Online

Business leaders are to go back to school in a government-funded scheme to take management expertise to the classroom. Experienced executives and younger high-fliers will take part in the project, Take5, which will target schools with specific difficulties or projects they want to get off the ground.

Business leaders are to go back to school in a government-funded scheme to take management expertise to the classroom. Experienced executives and younger high-fliers will take part in the project, Take5, which will target schools with specific difficulties or projects they want to get off the ground.

Initiatives include bringing in a marketing expert to advise a new headteacher at a previously failing school on how to tackle its poor reputation, with a professional rebranding exercise. It could involve helping to plan a major building programme or assisting the school with its financial management.

Next week, a not-for-profit organisation called Heads, Teachers and Industry (HTI), with funding from the Department for Education and Skills, will write to 24,000 schools asking them to come up with projects that could benefit from the injection of business acumen. Equally, it will be asking business people to come forward to offer their services.

The Take5 initiative, believed to be the first of its kind, has the support of Digby Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, who called it "an inspired move". Other business figures backing the scheme include Sir Martin Sorrell, the leading advertising entrepreneur, and Sir John Bond, chairman of HSBC.

Sir John said: "Building better links between the education and business sectors is incredibly important, as we have so much to learn from each other."

The scheme also chimes well with New Labour thinking about making schools more business-like and mimicking a market place through the promotion of "choice".

For nearly 20 years, HTI has run a highly successful scheme that places deputy and head teachers into businesses. Now, in response to requests from industry, it will put the process into reverse, bringing together the skill available with the school that needs it.

Anne Evans, chief executive of HTI, stressed the initiative was not a job swap but a structured programme. Typically, the business person will spend five days in the school, though he or she may spend much time before and after working on the project remotely.

Ms Evans said that Take5 provided a way for business to stretch its high-fliers.

"This is a way to work with your talent. Once you've sent them on the MBA course, this can follow. It will help with inter-personal skills, emotional intelligence. It's a very cheap way of developing your staff."

Daniel Cook, development director at Lloyds TSB, who has started on an early pilot programme, is working with Oaklands, a special needs school in Cheshire, with its image. The marketing expert is looking at promotional materials, the name of the school, its logo, uniform, website and so on.

"It is an intriguing challenge. From my point of view, this will broaden my knowledge and skills, and I can take that back to Lloyds TSB," Mr Cook said.

CLASSROOM ADVISERS

David Arculus, chairman, mmO2, Severn Trent

School: Bromsgrove School

Mr Arculus is very much part of the "great and good" of the business world, sitting on government advisory bodies such as the Better Regulation Task Force. Mr Arculus had a background in the media industry, including chairing IPC, the magazine publisher, in the late 1990s.

Sir John Bond, chairman, HSBC

School: Tonbridge School, Kent

Sir John has worked at HSBC since 1961 and was made chief executive in 1993, before succeeding as chairman in 1998. HSBC is worth more than £100bn on the stock market, making it easily Britain's most valuable bank. He is known to hate bureaucracy.

Dame Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, Pearson

School: Educated in Texas

An American, "Marj" has worked in the UK since the early 1990s and is probably Britain's leading business woman - though she hates all references to her gender. Ms Scardino ran The Economist, before being made head of Pearson, which owns the Financial Times and Penguin books.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP

School: Haberdashers' Aske's, Hertfordshire

Sir Martin is the world's pre-eminent advertising guru. When he talks, the media world listens. He has built the world's second largest advertising business, partly through aggressively buying rivals. His agencies include J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather.

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