Business Gives Struggling Schools Royal Treatment
16 October 2013 at 8:32 am
A landmark school-business partnership has borne a new program to aid disadvantaged students, writes freelance journalist Caroline Milburn.
|Peter Nash, chairman of KPMG Australia at the Schools Connect Australia event.|
The global professional services firm KPMG has announced it will be Australia’s first corporate champion of a landmark school-business partnership program aimed at lifting the aspirations and employability of disadvantaged school students.
The Not for Profit program, Business Class, has a successful track record in the United Kingdom, where it is the flagship education program of Business in the Community (BITC), one of the Prince of Wales’ Charities.
Many of the world’s best-known firms belong to Business Class in the UK and are partnered with more than 240 schools in the country’s poorest neighbourhoods.
The list of more than 200 companies in the Business Class program includes firms such as Google, BP, Goldman Sachs, Ford, McKinsey, British Gas, Siemens, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and other top corporations.
Peter Nash, chairman of KPMG Australia, said KPMG’s experience in the UK as a key supporter of Business Class influenced its decision to back the program’s launch in Australia.
“KPMG as an organisation takes its community obligations very seriously and our corporate citizenship program is very close to our hearts,” Nash said. “We recognise that better educational outcomes for young Australians are important for our society – on an economic level and for reasons of social cohesion.
“Business often has good intentions to do the right thing but it’s often very difficult for us to find practical means to engage with schools. Business Class is a very practical way to engage
and make a difference.”
Business in the Community (BITC) established the program in the UK in 2007.
In Australia the Not for Profit organisation Schools Connect Australia will deliver Business Class under licence from BITC, tailored to fit the needs of Australian schools and businesses.
The Victorian Government has provided funding to help establish the program.
Nash announced KPMG Australia’s role as the inaugural national corporate supporter of Business Class at a recent event marking its Australian launch, hosted by Schools Connect at KPMG’s Melbourne headquarters.
Raksha Pattni, the founder of Business Class, was the event’s guest speaker. Ms Pattni, BITC’s Area Director England West, developed Business Class after listening to businesses and schools describe their dissatisfaction with the short-term, ad-hoc nature of many school-business philanthropic projects and partnerships.
Research by the Australian Council for Educational Research reveals Australian businesses and schools have similar frustrations about business involvement with schools.
Under Business Class each business commits to a minimum three-year partnership with a school to help lift student achievement and employability. The school identifies its top priorities and its business partner provides it with voluntary expertise and support.
“The program is targeted at geographical areas where young people are most disadvantaged and where business can make an impact,” Pattni said. “We believe that to have healthy high streets you need to have healthy back streets. Business Class is about helping young people reach their potential.”
Tony Beddison AO, chairman of Prince's Charities Australia, also spoke at the event. He read a letter to the audience from the Prince of Wales, welcoming the establishment of Business Class in Australia. Prince’s Charities Australia coordinates the Prince of Wales’ charitable endeavours in Australia.
To watch a video interview with Pattni or a video of Nash and other Australian business leaders speaking at the launch, go to www.schoolsconnect.org.au.
Caroline Milburn is a freelance writer.