2018 is shaping up to be an extraordinary year for Latymer Upper School. The pride our school community felt on winning three Tes awards in February has not diminished, but rather is heightened by a special event taking place this week – The UK Social Mobility Awards.
The Awards will be held tomorrow (18 October) and have recognised Latymer’s work in advancing social mobility through both our Inspiring Minds bursary campaign and our work in partnership with local schools. It’s an honour to become the first school to have been shortlisted for one of these awards, let alone two! To be in the mix with such organisations as the NHS, Ministry of Justice and the Cabinet Office is somewhat daunting, but as we are at pains to teach our pupils, it’s the taking part that counts!
The UK Social Mobility Awards’ nominations have huge significance for me, personally. I was born into a working class background in a tower block opposite Grenfell and educated at my local comprehensive. My roots are firmly and proudly in a working class family, but I progressed from a secondary school in Hammersmith to read Classics at Oxford University – the first member of my family to take A levels or go to university. From there I taught in some of the UK’s most prestigious learning institutions. Education, in my case, has been the key to social mobility and I have pretty firm views on the role independent schools can play in improving the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Along with such independent schools as Christ’s Hospital, Manchester Grammar, Bolton School and JAGS, Latymer Upper prides itself on being one of Britain’s leading bursary schools, with the majority of its means tested bursary pupils studying at Latymer on a completely free place. My plan is to go further – to offer a life-changing education to more children who show ability and potential, regardless of their financial circumstances. I feel passionately that independent schools should be engines of, rather than obstacles to, social mobility.
We know the figures are stark; research points to a two year attainment gap in education between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and wealthier children, whilst evidence points to independent schools giving their pupils a two year advantage, not to mention the soft skills learned along the way. Bursaries to independent schools for children from disadvantaged backgrounds can make a real difference to their life chances and help close this attainment gap.
To that end, Latymer has launched Inspiring Minds, Latymer’s most ambitious bursary campaign to date. I felt it important for the credibility of the campaign to give ourselves a tangible goal – to put some numbers alongside our ambition. The aim, therefore, is to raise £40m so that we are able to offer 1 in 4 pupils a means tested bursary to Latymer by 2024 - its governing foundation’s 400th anniversary.
I believe the campaign is the most effective way in which our institution can encourage social mobility, offering 300 local children from backgrounds as modest as mine, access to a transformative education. And the benefits of a socially diverse school are felt by all pupils, be they fee paying or those on bursaries. As an educationalist I’m convinced that a school in which children study alongside classmates from diverse backgrounds, who have different perspectives on life, offers the most enriched intellectual environment in which to learn. As is often the case with social mobility, there is also a ripple effect. The first person in a family to benefit, is unlikely to become the last. The impact is felt by the next generation with the children and grandchildren of many of the Latymerians who were first in their families to become professionals, also attending higher education.
The £40m that we aim to raise from the Inspiring Minds bursary campaign is needed for the long-term funding of bursaries. Unlike some public schools which have large endowments, or independent schools with city gilds to fund their bursaries, Latymer has no such resource and has to raise the money needed from scratch. We aim to replenish Edward Latymer’s endowment fund with £20m of the money raised, protecting our bursary provision generations of children to come. The balance will be a bursary cash fund which will give us flexibility to meet immediate need.
It’s a huge challenge, but Latymer has a fantastic community of pupils, staff, parents and alumni, who have met the challenge head on. The fundraising has begun in earnest - from cake sales to gala dinners and from swimathons to river runs, everyone is doing their bit towards the campaign.
If our Inspiring Minds goal is met, we will be able to offer a quarter of our pupils a means tested bursary, meaning Latymer will become one of the most inclusive independent schools in the country. There is cause for hope. This term we welcomed our new Year 7 pupils, 18% of whom are in receipt of a bursary - with 175 bursary pupils across the School.
To see these children flourish and excel in the wider world is one step towards smashing the class glass ceiling. And whilst winning in our categories, at this week’s UK Social Mobility Awards would, of course, be the icing on the cake, to have had the honour of being nominated is a privilege in and of itself.