May 28, 2010 3:00 am

Business backers cool for schools

The expansion of independent academies will create opportunities for business sponsors to help turn around struggling schools. They would follow in the pioneering footsteps of carpets magnate Lord Harris and hedgie Arpad Busson.

The attraction of being a sponsor, apart from doing good while simultaneously annoying The Guardian, is to put your unique stamp on an educational establishment. So what schools could leading business people set up?

Lord Sugar might usefully sponsor a Brentwood School of Hard Knocks (admissions policy: no liars, schmoozers or bullshitters). This would put a strong emphasis on learning through doing. During technology classes pupils would build flashy devices for which there is no obvious market need. Then hard-sell them out of the back of the school bus at street markets. The sponsor's habit of telling less able pupils that they were "fired" could however trigger censure from Ofsted.

Tidjane Thiam of the Prudential could figure as the inspirational founder of Holborn Bars College for the Over-Ambitious (motto: Winging It) . But the bursar would have a duty of care to prevent the sponsor from getting carried away in his exciting new role. Any proposal from Mr Thiam to lead a potentially costly school expedition to Asia should be treated sceptically. A proper risk assessment would be required first.

Irene Rosenfeld of Kraft could meanwhile "put something back" by sponsoring the Somerdale Academy for Children of the Workless (motto: Life's a bitch, Kid. Get over it ). International business studies would be a strong suit of this school, with the sponsor personally teaching the module "How to massage British public opinion during a takeover battle". The main danger would be that she would unexpectedly pull her financial support.

jonathan.guthrie@ft.com

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