Education & Family

Charity to run Obama-style fund for deprived pupils

Image caption Initially the fund will target the poorest performing schools

Education charity the Sutton Trust is to oversee a new US-style endowment fund to help England's most disadvantaged children succeed.

It will work with another charity, the Impetus Trust, to manage the £125m government-backed Education Endowment Fund.

Based on Barack Obama's Race to the Top programme, the fund will offer cash for innovative ways of boosting grades such as summer schools.

All funded projects will be evaluated.

The Sutton Trust is the lead partner in the fund and will set up a separate charity to make government grants, worth a total of £125m over 10 years.

The grants will go to projects using "bold and innovative methods" for boosting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Tuition fees critic

It will welcome bids from a range of groups including teachers, charities, local authorities, social enterprises, public sector organisations and co-operatives.

Underperforming schools will also be able to bid for funds.

Education secretary Michael Gove said it was unacceptable that just 40 pupils out of 80,000 on free school meals made it into Oxbridge last year.

"Opportunity must become more equal," he said. "This is why we must press ahead with our reforms and focus resources on improving the education of the poorest children."

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the new fund, said it was an unprecedented opportunity to create a lasting legacy to improve the life chances of the country's most disadvantaged children.

He said he was sure it would uncover highly cost-effective and innovative projects that would influence the way billions of public money was spent on supporting such children.

He also said the Sutton Trust, which has been a vocal critic of the impact of the government's tuition fee policy, would remain completely independent of government.

"We will continue to fund research and take positions that may or may not agree with the government," he said.

Of the projects that are likely to be funded, he said: "There may be some things that have been tried that are no longer in operation that should be tried again.

"What we are looking at is cost-effectiveness. Summer schools, not just for university entry, but summer schools in general may be a possibility."

Another possibility was private tuition carried out one-to-one or in small groups, he said.

Selection criteria for bids will be unveiled in the early summer when the new charity is officially launched - and the first round of grants will be made in the autumn.

For the first two years, applications will only be accepted from, or in partnership with, underperforming primary and secondary schools in England.

Grants will aim to raise the attainment of the poorest children, those eligible for free school meals

The Sutton Trust said it envisaged that as much as £200m would be allocated in total over the lifetime of the programme - with the extra money coming from fund-raising and investment returns.

Daniela Barone Soares, chief executive of Impetus Trust, said: "We are thrilled to be one of the drivers behind an investment of this scale with such potential to make a real difference for disadvantaged children.

"The gap in attainment between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers results in an impoverished society, and has existed for far too long."

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