Even with the prospects of lockdown easing, a year of school closures has risked long-term damage to the education and employment prospects of children. That’s particularly true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not have access to the computers and internet connectivity that they need to access online learning. Add in difficulties around providing students with vital early employer engagement – such as delivering speeches in schools, workplace visits, and work experience – and concerted effort is needed to ensure that the pandemic does not create a ‘lost generation’ of young people.
Businesses across the country have been stepping up to support schools and young people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We have compiled a list of different ways that businesses have and can continue to provide much-needed help to schools:
Donate technology to help close the digital divide
Digital poverty has had a particularly damaging impact on schoolchildren. Here are some ways businesses can support schools to bridge the digital divide:
- Vodafone has launched The Great British Tech Appeal – click here to find out how your business can donate old phones and tablets to vulnerable young people.
- Business2Schools is collecting tech from businesses to donate to schools – find out more about how to donate devices here.
- The BBC has produced a helpful list of organisations around the country through which you can donate IT equipment to schoolchildren – read more here.
- If you’re based in London, the Greater London Authority has compiled a list of organisations collecting IT equipment to redistribute – you can find the list here.
Support schools to continue to deliver their careers programmes
In addition to the pressing need for technology, schools need support from businesses to continue to provide students with meaningful engagements with employers. The combination of a sharp rise in youth unemployment since the start of the pandemic and disruption to traditional careers programmes in schools over the past year means that helping schools to provide students with employer interactions has never been more important.
Here are two ways your business can help:
- Become an Enterprise Adviser with the Careers and Enterprise Company
The Careers and Enterprise Company works to facilitate high-quality careers education in schools and colleges. It has launched a campaign asking businesspeople to volunteer as an Enterprise Adviser. As an Enterprise Adviser, you will partner with a secondary school or college to support them in the development and implementation of their careers strategy, giving a valuable employer perspective that puts opportunities with local employers at the heart of a young person’s education. By doing so, you’ll help ensure all students are prepared and inspired for the fast-changing world of work.
Click here to find out how to become an Enterprise Adviser.
- Become an Inspire the Future volunteer
Inspire the Future is an online match-making platform that connects schools and colleges with volunteers from a range of sectors and professions that match their needs. They have recently launched virtual interactive sessions to enable young people to learn from volunteers remotely.
As Inspiring the Future volunteers, your staff can open children’s eyes to the all the possibilities for their future careers by simply sharing their own career journey, or, if they’ve got more time to give, supporting students with mock interviews and CV workshops.
You can find more details about Inspire the Future’s work, and how to sign up to volunteer, here.
Become a school governor
Every school in England and Wales has a governing board, made up of a group of volunteers from the community. The board sets the strategic direction of the school, oversees the school’s financial spend, and holds the leadership team to account. School governance gives many volunteers their first opportunity to join a board where they gain confidence and experience. There is a nationwide shortage of school governors; the need for skilled volunteers has never been greater.
Governors for Schools is a national charity working to link skilled professionals with schools in need of volunteers. All board meetings are currently taking place online to enable volunteers to safely support schools through this challenging period.
Governors for Schools can provide your employees with a lot of support to make sure volunteering in this way is for them, and to help them hit the ground running. They can also work with you to tell you about the impact your employees are having, including how many schools and pupils are benefitting from the time they give.
Putting it into practice
Deloitte’s 5 Million Futures programme aims to help people get to where they want to be through access to education and employment, regardless of background. The programme’s manager, Alison Walker, talked us through how the company has expanded the programme over the past year.
“Our education workstream includes supporting 26 partner schools, a long-term partnership with Teach First and a new focus on virtual tutoring and reading opportunities to support pupils’ COVID-19 learning recovery. A key objective in our strategy is to support strong and sustainable school leadership, now more important than ever with schools facing complex and unforeseen challenges due to the pandemic. Partnering with Governors for Schools enables us to combine this objective with our desire to support our people to use and develop their skills through volunteering to make an impact that matters in their communities, no matter their age, gender, background or location.
“Since September 2020, Governors for Schools has placed 25 Deloitte governors in schools serving low income communities across England and Wales, with 58 people currently moving through the application process. We’ve also built a School Governors network so that current and new governors can share knowledge, ask questions and keep themselves updated with training and the latest news. We’ve really appreciated the work that Governors for Schools have done to support this, making it easy to attract our people through webinars and promotional information, providing a matching service, sharing campaigns and training on topics from wellbeing to unconscious bias and from special educational needs to driving school improvement. This information is enabling our people to monitor their own development through their skills tracker tool, and helping us to easily report on our impact.
“As we move through 2021, we believe that this partnership will integrate with and complement our other education partnerships, helping us to tell an impactful story of our whole school support.”