Tories unveil big business plan to target ailing schools

SCHOOLS would be sponsored by philanthropists, big business and entrepreneurs under radical new proposals to transform the education system in Edinburgh.

Extra courses would be paid for by investors and individual schools given their own unique curriculum under the plan by the city’s Conservative group.

The measures – part of the party’s manifesto for the council elections on May 3 – would initially be aimed at the worst-performing high schools but rolled out across the system.

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The policy, inspired by models in Sweden and the United States, would see schools backed by banks focus on finance and others sponsored by pharmaceutical firms geared towards sciences. High schools with a low number of students aiming for university would be geared towards trades.

Councillor Cameron Rose, the Conservative education spokesman, said there were significant numbers of businesses and wealthy individuals who have already shown a willingness to invest in schools.

Bureaucracy and central control, he argued, prevent the trial of new innovative policies.

He told the Evening News: “For too long schools young people in poorer areas have been let down. We’ve already got interest among philanthropists in Scotland who are keen to explore this and use new means of addressing the problems in some of our worst schools.

“There are many out there who want to give something back and care about our failing schools. If we can bring new ideas where everything else has failed we can turn around areas where the current system has been demonstrably unsuccessful.”

Councillor Rose, a retired police inspector, said the proposals were similar to the ‘free schools’ of Sweden and more recently England.

He added: “We have indications from the US and Sweden that pharmaceutical firms desperate for more qualified people might want to invest in sciences courses.”

Professor Eleanor Shaw, senior lecturer at Strathclyde Business School and director of research at the Centre for Charitable Giving & Philanthropy, said the model has been successful elsewhere.

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She said: “The proposed model works very well so far in the United States which has a very strong tradition of encouraging wealthy business people, especially entrepreneurs with significant wealth, to gift money to education.”

City Conservative leader Jeremy Balfour added: “Edinburgh Conservatives are very proud of the city, but we believe Edinburgh can still be better for all of us. It is time for a new vision for Edinburgh and for strong leadership.”