INEOS supports health, education, conservation and grassroots sport initiatives throughout the world.
“Through our giving we aim to make real impact big and small, whether that’s trying to find a solution to the global crisis of antibiotic resistance, improving the lives of children living in poverty, or supporting local community groups around our sites,” said Ursula Heath, Communications Manager INEOS.
Giving headteachers the chance to make a difference
IT is estimated that more than four million children in the UK – over 40% of children in some regions – were living in poverty before the pandemic.
But with successive lockdowns and increases in the cost of living in the UK, the problem will only worsen.
Often their parents do not rely on state benefits. They are simply working all hours in low-paid jobs to make ends meet, leaving little time and money for non-essentials.
Following a successful pilot scheme involving 20 schools in some of the UK’s most deprived communities, 100 headteachers have now been chosen by INEOS to benefit from an annual £20,000 grant to spend on initiatives that could transform the lives of their most deprived children.
These initiatives are taking place and being evaluated, with learnings shared across the group of teachers.
Over three years, INEOS hopes to not only witness a meaningful, short-term impact on the lives of several children living in poverty, but also to gain insight into effective ways of tackling the negative effects of deprivation in primary schools, which can be shared and scaled.
CHILD poverty is nothing new. It has been a priority for successive UK governments for about 70 years. Attempts to tackle the problem, though, have focused on raising standards in schools. No one has tackled the root cause, which is what goes on beyond the school gates. Until now.
“INEOS’ decision to want to play its part in eradicating poverty represents a radical, new approach,” said Brian Padgett, a former deputy head who is working closely with four other ex-teachers on INEOS’ Forgotten Forty initiative.
The Forgotten Forty team – Brian, Elaine and John Wyllie, Sheila Loughlin and Elaine Crotty – were brought together in 2019 to consider what might be done differently to help tackle the impact of poverty on some of the most deprived children in the UK.
They came up with the concept of giving teachers a ‘blank cheque’ to try out new projects that might inspire children from poorer homes to believe in a better future – with the intention of INEOS learning what works, and what doesn’t.
All five members of the Forgotten Forty team know from experience that a child’s home life can seriously hamper his or her ability to do well in school and limit what they go on to achieve.
“The home underpins everything,” said Brian. “By helping families to cope and live better, the children will benefit.”
They also know the challenges facing headteachers whose primary schools care for some of the most deprived children in the UK, with their ability to help often constrained by limited and overstretched school budgets.
To help, INEOS has committed to giving £20,000 a year for three years to 100 primary schools serving some of the poorest communities in the UK – and is putting that funding into the hands of headteachers.
All INEOS wants is for them to use that money to help build a child’s confidence, develop their resilience, excite their curiosity about the world around them and inspire them to want to do well.
“The money is not there to send a child on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa,” said Brian. “It’s about opening a child’s eyes to the world around them and showing them what is on their own doorstep.
“It could be as simple as taking them to a local museum or an art gallery that they have never visited before.”
The team is now working closely with all the 100 schools.
“Headteachers are not short of ideas,” said Elaine Wyllie, who founded The Daily Mile when she was headteacher of St Ninian’s Primary School in Scotland. “At the last count, they had come up with more than 600 initiatives.”
Headteachers know that not all learning takes place in the classroom, and that valuable lessons can be learned on school trips, after school and at weekends.
But they also know that children from poorer backgrounds are less likely to go on school trips, enjoy days out at the seaside, learn to play a musical instrument or join a sports club because their families simply cannot afford it.
‘The Forgotten Forty project is so flexible and is the best initiative I have ever been involved in. It has already had a huge impact on the community and will allow our children to build aspirations for the future’ - Nick Anderson, Headteacher Bede Primary School, Gateshead
The Forgotten Forty project’s goal is to allow headteachers to help their most deprived pupils enjoy a well-rounded education that children from wealthier homes take for granted.
“INEOS trusts us and we trust our teachers,” said John, who spent 32 years working in Scottish secondary schools.
The teachers have been given some rough guidance – they cannot spend it on staff salaries or capital projects – but apart from that, they have been trusted to spend it wisely.
Elaine Crotty, who specialised in early years’ education, said it didn’t matter if one of the teachers’ initiatives didn’t work.
“We are not expecting them all to work,” she said. “What we want to do is encourage teachers to take a risk and try something new. With any luck, some of the findings will be applicable to other schools too - whether or not they are currently part of the Forgotten Forty programme.”
The headteachers have also been introduced to one another so that they can share their ideas and successful initiatives.
INEOS will host an annual conference each year to allow them to build a network.
“Talking to each other has also helped them to realise they are not alone,” said Brian.
He said successive governments had blamed the underachievement of children from poor backgrounds on schools.
“They have wilfully ignored all the challenges stacked up against the children, their parents and local communities,” he said.
He said if INEOS’ intervention showed promising new ways of alleviating the effects of poverty, it could influence how schools spend their funding in future.
“The team are also hoping the initiative encourages other private donors to get involved with supporting primary schools,” said Brian.