Business must back schools, Educating Yorkshire head says

Business must work with schools to influence government and prepare children for the future, headteacher Johnny Mitchell has urged.


The Thornhill Community Academy head and star of Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire issued a plea for business to use its power shape policy and ensure young people develop the skills they need.

Addressing the Variety Yorkshire Business Awards, Mr Mitchell said education is more than sending teens from school with qualifications.

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Governments of all colours have “played around with” the education system to such an extent it seems it is only geared towards a single ambition, he said. “That is not what education is all about. Education is so much bigger than that,” he added.

Schools are facing greater challenges as many families are not equipping kids with basic life skills. At Thornhill, near Dewsbury, around 50 per cent of year seven pupils cannot use a knife and fork.

“We are starting with a raw material that is getting deskilled as we go on,” he said.

While politicians tend to focus on national and international economic stories, more stories should be told about the regional economy and the drivers “for our kids, for our own children, the kids we teach in the school to move forward”.

He urged businesses to lobby and “annoy” government to shift the focus back to local issues.

“You know what you need from the next generation and in schools, we know what you need as well,” he said.

“There’s that little middleman in the middle called Government and they don’t tend to listen too much.”

The 28th Variety Yorkshire Business Awards was held in Leeds on December 12.

The annual celebration of the region’s business achievements, sponsored by The Yorkshire Post and Howgate Sable, honoured broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson with a lifetime achievement award. Mr Parkinson also urged business to use its collective power to support the most vulnerable people in society.

He said: “You have immense power, which can shift Governments. You make a lot of money and I think there’s also devise a way whereby we rethink the matter of charity.”

The Yorkshire Business Leader of the Year award went to Endless managing director Garry Wilson. Mr Wilson, whose firm has celebrated a stellar year, said being based in Yorkshire is a popular “differentiator” for the private equity house.

The Yorkshire Board of the Year, which celebrates performance in private and listed companies, went to VP Plc. Neil Stothard, managing director of VP said the company is focused continued reinvention despite its recent successes.

SME of the Year went to Econ Engineering, which has seen double-digit growth annually since 2011. The ceremony also introduced the inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility award, which went to Croda.

Yorkshire Bank, Leeds Beckett University, Design Portfolio Marketing Services, EY, Henderson Insurance Brokers, NM Rothschild, PACE Plc, DLA Piper and Yorkshire Building Society and Endless also contributed to the event, which raised thousands for the children’s charity.


The winners of the 28th Variety Yorkshire Business Awards were:

- Business Leader of the Year, sponsored by The Yorkshire Post:

Garry Wilson, managing director, Endless

- Yorkshire Board of the Year, sponsored by Howgate Sable:

VP Plc

- SME of the Year, sponsored by Yorkshire Bank:

Econ Engineering

- Corporate Social Responsibility award, sponsored by Leeds Beckett University:


- Variety Children’s Charity Lifetime Achievement Award:

Michael Parkinson

- Special Variety Recognition Award:

Martin Shaw, former secretary and chairman of the Variety Yorkshire Business Awards