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CEO update September 2020

15/09/20

Last week more than 100 Royal SpringBoard accredited schools opened their doors to welcome back their pupils, including 420 SpringBoarders. Our SpringBoarders were delighted and relieved that this day had finally arrived after the challenging months of trying to study from home and missing their friends and teachers in their boarding home from home.

We are so proud of the way that SpringBoarders have responded and continued to succeed in so many ways.  Their exam successes were testament to their engagement and efforts over the years of their placement and it was fantastic to see that of our 82 school leavers:

  • 27% achieved AAB or higher in at least 2 facilitating subjects
  • 67% (52 pupils) achieved 3 A-levels graded A*-C, and
  • 60 secured their first choice University places, with half of those (30) at Russell Group universities, a number have secured places on competitive apprenticeships, and others reapplying to achieve University places after gap years

At GCSE too our current pupils also fared really well, with 76% achieving strong English and Maths Passes (55% last year); and 95.6% gained 5 or more GCSEs at grades 9-4/A*-C.

These results provide confirmation of the tangible difference that bursaries can make to bridge educational inequity. We know that academic achievement is only part of the impact of the boarding experience, and we never suggest that it is the only metric of our success. But there is no doubt that it opens doors to future fulfilling careers; and it has been fantastic to see how much progress each individual pupil has made academically as a result of their boarding placements.
 
Throughout the last six months, our schools have provided innovative online teaching approaches to support and encourage all our pupils to keep working hard and think positively about their future. We have had great feedback from our pupils, families and community partner organisations of the quality of that offering. In parallel, generous donations from our supporters allowed us to put in place an Emergency Fund quickly to augment school efforts with additional support to help manage pupils’ multiple and complex risks. This included food vouchers, technology grants and access to additional pastoral and psychological support. Of particular importance was being able to invest in our community partners to enhance their pastoral provision - checking in with all our families over the summer as the lockdown eased and those risks continued to evolve.
 
One of the more significant emergency interventions we made was to put in place targeted additional tutoring for help close the gap in learning that our prospective Year 12 entrants faced. The evaluation of this programme is ongoing but there are very positive initial signs, with pupils engaging well and building good rapport with their online tutors. We were delighted that all of our prospective Yr 12 entrants achieved the GCSE grades that they needed to secure their boarding placements, which meant that all new placements went ahead as planned, with 111 new starters.
 
Reflecting on the momentum that the killing of George Floyd brought to the #BlackLivesMatter movement over the summer we asked all of our pupils to complete a survey of their experiences of racism in their SpringBoard placements. With 100 respondents we now have a much clearer understanding of how experiences of race and cultural difference at boarding schools have affected our pupils. We know that we need to use this understanding to act in a number of ways to improve the experience of pupils in the future. We are putting in place an Alumni Leadership Board to help ensure that our response is led by young people who have had direct and recent experience. We are supporting this Board with expertise and guidance to help build practical recommendations for all our schools. Our Programme Team will be in touch with schools to provide more detail on this in due course.
 
Over the summer we also made good progress in designing our new Alumni Network 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 both better support our school leavers; as well as harness their energy and passion for social mobility to act as a forceful movement to inspire future generations. We have been reaching out to all our alumni – past and present – and would be grateful for both school and partner support in encouraging SpringBoarders to engage in that as we build the programme. We hope that our current Year 13s will particularly benefit from this as they transition towards leaving their school placements.
 
With the growing alumni programme; work to support pupils facing more complex risks as a result of COVID and other pressures; and as a result of having been awarded a contract from the DfE to grow our programmes for Looked After Children and children identified by their Local Authorities as being ‘in need’; there have been a number of changes in the Team, with 5 new staff members (see org chart). We know that we can do more to help young people gain the outcomes they need to meet their aspirations; and these changes should put us in a strong position to do so over the coming years.
 
So as schools welcome all our pupils back, we have much to look forward to. 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.
 
I would be delighted to discuss any of the above with you in more detail in an individual video-call conversation. Do let me know if you would like to do so by getting in touch at ceo@royalspringboard.org.uk

With best wishes for the coming term,

Ali Henderson
CEO

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