Following this week’s announcement of a new EEF-funded trial of Children’s University, CEO James Turner looks back on the Sutton Trust’s part in the organisation’s development and reflects on the importance of building strong partnerships.
Working in partnership has always been at the heart of the Sutton Trust’s approach. This year we were able to work directly with 5,000 young people because of the alliances we have with universities, corporates, other third sector organisations, foundations and philanthropists. Nowadays that partnership approach manifests itself in our suite of flagship programmes – our UK Summer Schools, US Programme, Pathways to the Professions and Scholars.
But the Trust also has a proud history of seed corn funding third party organisations with huge potential and which are committed to our mission of promoting social mobility and reducing educational inequalities. So it was with great to see the announcement on Wednesday that The Children’s University has once again been supported by our sister charity, the Education Endowment Foundation, to work with 150 primary schools across England. This follows a successful first evaluation, which means that the CU is one of less than 20 projects on the EEF’s list of ‘Promising programmes’ – out of the 150 plus the Foundation have evaluated so far. The Children’s University has a long history of raising aspirations and providing enrichment activities to children, but the Trust spearheaded the creation of the CU Trust to help grow provision in the most deprived parts of the country, evaluate impact and assure quality. The Trust’s own financial support was matched by a significant grant from the Department for Education. After a few years observing their achievements from a distance, I once again saw their excellent work first hand in the summer at Queens Park Primary in Westminster. With its focus on developing essential life skills and building cultural capital, the Children’s University is as important as ever – and it is with great pride we look back on our part in its development.
But the CU Trust is not an isolated example. The Trust was also one of the founding sponsors of The Brilliant Club, which supports 15,000 young people each year through its highly-effective Scholars programme. The Trust is also proud to have worked with IntoUniversity in its early days, helping it to expand from a single centre to the successful, national charity it is today. On the back of our Pathways to Law programme, we also supported the development of PRIME – to make access to work experience in the legal sector fairer – and Access Accountancy. And of the five organisations we recently supported through our Parental Engagement Fund, run in partnership with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, four have continued to expand and strengthen their reach: the Parental Engagement Network, Making it Real, Easy Peasy and Peeple. In fact, all four are undertaking second stage evaluations of their impact through the EEF.
It is often said that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. The credit for all these achievements lies, of course, with the organisations themselves and their dedicated staff and trustees. But for the Trust, the blossoming of these programmes is important for two reasons. First, it shows that, despite the pressures of funding and competition, solutions are often best solved by collaboration and a recognition of where genuine expertise lies. And second, the organisations mentioned here all share a common commitment to measuring impact and building evidence – and it is heartening that this (often brave) approach has been recognised and rewarded.
Even though our model has changed over the years, I hope there will be many more such partnerships in the Trust’s future. The social mobility challenge demands collaboration and informed, evidence-led innovation – even though this is often harder work than going it alone.