Education – Whose business is it?


The FED are keen to work across sectors and in partnership with all those concerned with the future of education in this country. London First is one of the most significant organisations in London to facilitate dialogue between central and local government and the business community. 

A recent FED / London First round table event featuring Baroness Nicky Morgan and FED Chair Carl Ward was hosted by Paul Drechsler. In this blog Paul outlines his thinking on some of the key issues for business in any future vision for education and skills.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. 

A blog by Paul Drechsler CBE Chair of London First

Education – Whose business is it?

My favourite book is ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ so it’s no real surprise that my most frequently used quote is by Nelson Mandela. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

First and foremost I am a business person so I venture to comment on education with great caution and the greatest respect for teachers and school leaders.

I learned while leading Business in the Community’s Education Leadership Team that businesses have key capabilities that are relevant and can be helpful to schools: Leadership & Governance, Enterprise & Employability, Expertise & Experience in many school subjects and other areas that can be valuable to school leaders; managing change, people issues, crisis management to name a few. These capabilities all made a difference in over 650 long term school business partnerships that were formed across the U.K.

They were also confirmation of another truth – business leaders and their organisations really care about education and will engage to make a difference. It’s no surprise that THE number 1 issue for business members of London First and the CBI is People; Education & Skills.

This should be no surprise – the only way to seize the world’s greatest opportunities and overcome our greatest challenge; Climate Change and its consequences, is through human effort bringing to the task all the knowledge and skills necessary to make progress at the fastest possible pace.

I had the privilege of Chairing Teach First the source of nearly 1800 new teaching leaders a year – who go to teach in schools with the greatest challenges in terms of poverty, deprivation and disadvantage. In my view it was the single most important and significant intervention in education in the U.K. in the past 20 years. It’s creation was the direct consequence of business leaders‘ determination to tackle education disadvantage.

Business leaders catalysed it’s formation, business funding was critical to its development and growth, and to this day businesses are still key strategic partners, funders, mentors and Trustees,(that include also 4 Teach First Alumni).

So I believe that business is a force for good. We have skin in the game. We really care. We are not experts in how to educate young people. But we can be immensely helpful in defining what we want out of the education system, and supporting teachers and school leaders in their mission.

This is why I am passionate about the FED – it is a great opportunity to influence and shape our long term education policy & strategy. This must be the best way to ensure the next generation are ready and equipped to seize the immense opportunities that lie ahead and to overcome our greatest challenges.

Is there a higher calling?

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