As companies consider their approach to working with education, it’s not just about philanthropy. Put simply, working with schools makes good business sense.
Over the past 20 years what used to be called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a sophisticated and strategic discipline, woven into the fabric of business.
Responsible businesses successfully combine activity, values and expertise in innovative partnerships with communities.
These create significant value for all parties, not least increased trust in the businesses involved.
There is a strong case for focusing responsible business strategies on schools.
As community hubs, schools enable businesses to communicate with people across a wide range of age groups from young people through to parents.
This channel allows direct engagement with a vast audience.
The numbers stack up: the UK’s 34,000 schools serve 12.6 million children and young people, representing millions of families. And let’s not forget the school leaders, teachers and support staff – that’s another half a million people.
At a time of budget cuts in education, thinly stretched resources and rapidly changing educational priorities, there is also demand in schools for support from business.
Schools welcome input that helps teachers engage, inspire and inform the young people they work with, and ultimately prepare them for the world of work.
Corporate engagement in schools is definitely not a new thing. Businesses such as BP have invested in education for decades. The BP Educational Service, founded in 1968, is a recognised part of the school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learning provision – nearly 500,000 students use the resources every year.
BPES works with teachers to bring the curriculum to life, promoting skills that are at the heart of their business and that the UK desperately needs.
These skills will be important in addressing the growing engineering skills crisis in the UK and in helping to develop a scientifically literate public.
At the other end of the spectrum, look at the highly effective work that Kellogg’s does with schools and community groups to provide breakfasts for school breakfast clubs, ensuring that children get a good start to their day.
The benefits for the schools are significant – the children are better able to concentrate and more likely to behave well, and so learn more than they would if they were hungry.
Kellogg’s has been supporting activity in this area for more than 15 years and it is such a natural fit with its brand and products.
It is important to note that corporate engagement in schools is only successful when done in close collaboration with teachers and the schools involved.
The business offer has to be shaped to be relevant to, and support, education.
Such programmes deliver important knowledge and skills to young people in a way that is accessible, relevant to the curriculum and effectively free for teachers.
By getting this engagement right, businesses can enrich their relationship with their communities, building awareness, understanding and trust, while making a real and valuable contribution to education.
Now that’s a good reason for brands to go back to school.
Nick Fuller is founder of EdComs
Nick Fuller is founder of EdComs