The CBI at Harrogate: Get into business of education, says Patten

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The Independent Online
JOHN PATTEN, Secretary of State for Education, called on industry to devise innovative ways of putting private money into state schools. He said companies should consider projects including building laboratories for schools to lease and providing financial advice to schools.

He told CBI delegates in Harrogate: 'For the future I have an open mind on bolder and more radical ways of bringing the dynamism of the private sector into state education. My colleague Stephen Dorrell and I are giving a lot of thought to that too.'

Mr Patten said he realised that private companies would not commit capital to the state education sector unless they knew there was the right blend of risk and return.

However, he said there was already plenty of scope for companies to do business on commercial terms. It was up to companies to go into schools and tell them if the education system was failing industry and how.

He also urged companies to show that they valued the new National Vocational Qualifications and General National Vocational Qualifications.

'We have set the framework for an education revolution. The task is to make it work. It is a task for the personal attention of chairmen and chief executives,' he said.

The CBI later called for further action on education for 14 to 19-year-olds, which it said was Britain's Achilles' heel. Sir Bryan Nicholson, chairman of Bupa and the CBI's education and training committee, said more coherence was needed in education for that age group, and more emphasis on core skills, including technology.

Sir Bryan urged ministers to introduce a financial youth credit system as soon as possible.

'It is elementary economics that funding should empower the individual - the customer - and not the institution,' he said.