Interview: November 2015
Young people from the UK’s poorest backgrounds face a considerable educational disadvantage. They tend to do less well at school than their middleclass peers, they are far less likely to go to university, and they have little chance of ever entering the professions.
This failure to capitalise on existing talent is being addressed by the charity IntoUniversity, of which Middleton client James Lambert is Chair.
“Educational disadvantages come at a cost to the individual young people but also to the wider economy,” says James.
IntoUniversity shows what can be achieved when disadvantaged children receive the academic support, the focus and the mentoring that middle-class children receive as a matter of course. Primary and secondary students receive after-school help with homework, coursework, literacy and numeracy. GCSE and A level students are supported with UCAS forms, degree options, interview techniques. The FOCUS programme offers learning that is closer to the university experience by immersing young people in a single topic or subject area. And, under the Mentoring programme, 10-17 year-olds are paired with a university student who helps with school work, social skills and confidence-building.
“The essence of IntoUniversity is that we provide the advantages that middle class households take for granted. When I step out of my front door and look left there is a large local authority housing estate just the other side of the main road. There are kids as bright as mine living on the estate but they are destined to have a very different narrative. I see the privileged kids and the less privileged kids intersecting as they make their journey to school, but I know that their journeys through life will be very different. A child from the estate will perform half as well at school and is 7.5 times less likely to go to a top university. So there are two worlds. And there is a fundamental unfairness about that.”
“Generally, about 23% of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will get in to higher education. But when they have been through the IntoUniversity programme it’s as high as 79%. Our low cost base – roughly £200 per child per year – enables us to work on a large scale. In the last academic year we saw more than 21,500 children. As we continue to expand we need to raise an ever increasing amount each year to provide this free service.”
IntoUniversity was awarded Charity of the Year in the £1-10m income category at the 2015 Charity Times Awards. The charity started as a homework club in North Kensington and now operates 21 learning centres across seven cities in the UK, with plans to expand to 33 centres and three further UK cities by 2020.
James Lambert is a director of Lisburne Holdings Ltd and of Value Retail plc. He was elected Chair of the Trustee Board of IntoUniversity in 2009.
For more information on the charity or to make a donation, contact Hannah Thomas on: 020 7243 0242 or [email protected]