Our partner, Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation
Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation (RNCSF) is a leading social mobility charity working to bring the transformational opportunities offered by fully-funded bursaries at some of the UK’s leading schools to young people who will benefit from them the most. Our partnership with RNCSF will underpin the Gift of Education campaign, ensuring that The Leys is the right school for the children who come to study with us. We spoke to Ali Henderson, CEO of RNCSF, to discuss the charity’s work and the difference fully-funded bursaries make to young lives.
RNCSF has been growing fast to offer more boarding places for children facing challenging circumstances. What are your plans for the coming years, especially post-Covid?
RNCSF runs two programmes, one focused on Looked-After and Vulnerable Children, the other focused on children living in Social Mobility cold spots. By 2025 we want to have supported 2,000 children in total, which will be about 150 pupils per year on 110% bursaries at 120 schools – up from 110 children per year currently. We would love to offer more places as the levels of need are through the roof, especially post-Covid, but the places schools can offer are limited.
The Department for Education has recently awarded us a contract to expand our offering and look at how day places at independent schools can help care-experienced children. This is an exciting move as it gives the best possible opportunities to vulnerable children and makes us part of the children’s social care landscape.
While about 30% of the children we help are care-experienced or vulnerable, the other 70% come from social mobility cold spots – places where young people are faced with a cocktail of challenges where knife and drug crime, inter-generational unemployment, precarious and overcrowded housing situations and/or few good or outstanding state schools. We have established community partners in London and elsewhere, and are actively seeking to extend our reach to areas like Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and Liverpool.
Why is that important?
There are lots of parts of London with really entrenched issues of poverty and disadvantage, but it is also the case that London as a whole (and its commuter belt) is pulling away from the rest of the country when it comes to the chances of youngsters getting into good schools and good jobs. That is why in recent years we have invested in new partnerships in the older industrial towns and coastal areas – places like Stoke-on-Trent, Weston-super-Mare, and East Birmingham. Through our partnership with Hope Opportunity Trust we have supported 70 young people from working class communities in Liverpool to attend boarding school for their 6th Form years. These young people from just two or three streets are now going on to be lawyers, journalists, judges, doctors. Everyone in that community now knows someone who has gone to university. It is hard to explain how powerful the effect of that is.
We will be kick-starting the Gift of Education and welcoming four children in 2022, who will be matched with The Leys by RNCSF. What is the benefit of a group of SpringBoarders attending a school together?
We know from our research with pupils and alumni that, at times, it can be isolating to be on a full boarding bursary. You can feel a bit stateless, between those you are at school with and your peers in your home community. We encourage schools to bridge this gap by building mini-communities in which pupils can share their experiences on a boarding bursary, talk about how they feel, and support each other. Not all students will need this, but for some we know it can make a big difference.
And finally, what is the role for RNCSF once a pupil has finished at school?
We support all our pupils up to the age of 25 through our Alumni programme, as we know that social mobility doesn’t end with a great education. Young people might need help with a whole range of challenges – many remain trapped in a cycle of poverty with pressures to care for family members, to access benefits or with fears over the burden of university debt. We will stand by our SpringBoarders to help them thrive through their next steps after school, during which time they will often mentor those following in their footsteps too. Their aspiration and hard work means they are great role models for those around them, and younger SpringBoarders too.