Working hard to help children in need
INEOS adopts radical approach to age-old problem.
CHILDREN worn down by poverty and lack of opportunity are starting to shine – and headteachers in the UK believe INEOS’ radical approach to tackling child poverty is at the heart of it. INEOS had launched its Forgotten 40 initiative, believing it would make a difference to those most in need. But it was just a hunch.
Today, the impact of the company’s £20,000 annual gift to each of the 100 schools serving the most deprived areas in the UK is paying dividends.
“The impact that the INEOS funding has had on our children and their families is beyond words,” said Claire Higgins, headteacher of Holy Cross Catholic Primary School in Birkenhead on The Wirral.
“It has enabled us to provide the most amazing opportunities and experiences for our children that our school budget would simply not enable us to do.”
The hope is that a mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions. That’s certainly what the late American physician Oliver Wendell Holmes believed; INEOS does too.
Over the past 18 months, schools have used INEOS’ money to take children on trips to the zoo, the beach, the park, the Lake District, and the theatre – all places they have never been. They have also invested in food banks, cookery classes for parents, and therapy dogs.
Although INEOS is funding the initiative, it has put its trust in five retired teachers who regularly liaise with each headteacher.
Brian Padgett, a former deputy head who also spent 15 years as an Ofsted inspector, is part of the Forgotten 40 team.
“From the late 1970s, successive UK governments of all shades have blamed teachers and schools for the underachievement of children and young people from poor backgrounds,” he said.
“But they have wilfully ignored all the challenges stacked up against the children, their parents and their local communities.
“If INEOS’ intervention works, the evidence from its success may influence policymakers at a national level to re-invest in the ‘local’, with headteachers given powers to direct resources according to local need.”
All INEOS’ headteachers face similar problems. One school in the most deprived council estate in the whole of the Rhondda Valley in Wales recently bought a bed and some bedding for a child, who was so grateful she knocked on headteacher Andrew Williams’ door to say thank you.
“When that sort of thing happens, you know that the INEOS gift is being used in the best possible way,” he said.
Teachers are trusted to spend the money where it is really needed.
“What your supporters have to understand is the power you have given school leaders to make a real difference where it really matters,” said Louise Hill, headteacher of Grimes Dyke Primary in Leeds.
“We do have government funding, but it is tied up in red tape, every penny has to be accounted for, and it is linked to academic achievement.
“The money we have received from the Forgotten 40 project has been a breath of fresh air. It is amazing to be trusted as a headteacher to know what is right for my children and their families.”