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CEO Summer Update

08/07/20

COVID19 has brought educational inequality into stark focus. How different the experiences of children across the UK have been: some have had every possible support from parents, friends, teachers; others are facing poverty, enforced care, instability and often unhappiness at home. We know that our work is making a tangible difference; with the 410 children/young people on our bursaries continuing to work hard and remain optimistic about their future given access to the stability, support, and remote learning education materials provided by their boarding school placements. We have heard many inspiring stories of hope and community action: schools keeping boarding open for our most vulnerable pupils; partners knocking on doors to deliver basic goods and checking how families were coping; donors digging deep to help our efforts. We were delighted to exceed our fundraising target for our Emergency Fund which allowed us to provide food vouchers laptops, WiFi dongles, 1:1 online tuition over the summer for prospective Yr12 pupils, and psychological support services for those facing particular challenges to their mental health and wellbeing.
 
All our accredited independent and state boarding schools are honouring the bursary placements of new and existing pupils from September which means we are on track to support the placements of 112 new pupils in schools next year. We will not know what the impact on boarding provision will be until at least August given the changing guidance on social distancing measures. But we are collaborating with schools to prioritise the return of SpringBoarders where possible given the safe haven that boarding provides for so many.
 
More recently, as you would expect we have been reflecting on the momentum that the killing of George Floyd has brought to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We are proud to have supported 380 children and young people from BAME backgrounds to date to access the life-transforming opportunity of a fully funded boarding school education.  Given the scale and reach of our network we are well placed to gather their insights to understand experiences of racism and cultural difference at independent and state boarding schools. We have been asked by our schools and partners to help delve into the issues in an objective way and are conducting research on this over the summer to learn alongside all our member schools.

In June we were awarded a DfE contract to grow the number of looked-after-children and children identified by their Local Authorities as being ‘in need’  on bursaries at independent (day and boarding) schools; and explore ‘outreach’ opportunities, such as through extra-curricular and enrichment programmes, for hundreds of others where school places are not possible. The award of this contract is a great endorsement of our evidence that independent schools can help to secure educational parity for some of the most vulnerable children in society.  It will allow us to put much greater effort into growing our programmes to support more looked-after and vulnerable children.  As part of this we are also going to start to explore day school placements.
 
Credit Suisse have also extended their support to us to allow us to launch a new Alumni Network programme. For some time we have hoped to harness our alumni’s energy and passion for social mobility into a formalised programme. With more than 300 of our boarders now having left their placements for University, apprenticeships, or the workplace we will now have the capacity to do so.

This and the DfE contract mean we are advertising for some exciting new opportunities as the Team grows in size from the summer. If you know of anyone who might be interested in working for us, please ask them to contact me at admin@royalspringboard.org.uk or visit our Jobs page.
 
So as the academic year draws to a close, we have much to celebrate. We have continued to monitor our ‘retention rate’, which at 96% gives us a strong indication of the success of our programmes; and we are looking forward to finding out the University and other destinations of all our Year 13 leavers. It has been wonderful to hear already of a number gaining places on very competitive apprenticeship schemes.
 
All the above would not be possible without the commitment of our donors and schools. Despite the challenges that an economic downturn might present for the state and independent boarding sector there are many promising signals that schools’ commitment to the role of bursary giving in lifting the life chances of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils remains unwavering. We are confident we will be able to place 110-120 new pupils again in September 2021; rising back up to pre-pandemic growth plans thereafter. But to continue to leverage these places we know that we will need to grow the number of schools in our accredited schools network and raise more funds. In the autumn we will hold a video webinar on the role of bursary giving in bridging the educational divide and will send details in due course.

With best wishes

Ali Henderson, CEO

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