Social Investment in Education – A Call to Action

| No responses | Posted by: Gemma Rocyn Jones | Theme: Social Innovation & Investment, Work with Communities, Youth & Education

Take two children; imagine that they are born on the same day, in the same hospital. They live next door to each other, they play together and are set to go to the same primary and secondary school. Before they walk through the gates of school aged five we know that at the end of their journey through compulsory education, national averages suggest that one has just a 35% likelihood of achieving 5 GCSEs A*-C and the other 65%. [1]

Why might this be the case? One has low-income parents who qualify for free school meals; the other lives in a more affluent household. Income is a crude measure of disadvantage, masking an array of complex needs. Yet, these statistics illustrate an uncomfortable truth. Children growing up in disadvantaged circumstances are less likely to do well at school, which negatively affects their long term employment prospects. This puts them at a disadvantage to their peers regardless of their natural abilities. While education may be the primary tool we have for ensuring equality of opportunity for every child growing up in the UK, as our system stands today it is only working for the few, not the many.

So, it was apt that on the same day that the Cabinet Office was announcing its Campaign for Youth Social Action, in a packed room on the other side of St James’ Park, Charlie Green, co-founder of the Private Equity Foundation, was announcing another ‘Call to Action’ on behalf of the 1,265,770 children in this country who are falling foul of this educational attainment gap. [2]

Over the last four months The Young Foundation has been conducting research on behalf of Big Society Capital and the Private Equity Foundation to identify what works in terms of redressing the gap, what makes these solutions marketable into schools, who hold the purse strings for the £1.875 billion of pupil premium that is ring fenced for this problem, and what the role might be for social investment to support them.

At The Young Foundation we are keenly aware of the depth and complexity of this problem. It comes out clearly in our ethnographic studies of young people whether discussing the impact of the cuts in Camden or educational attainment in West Norfolk. At the same time, we are also aware of the successful approaches that are being used to tackle this problem head on. Eleven of the 18 social ventures that have come through our Accelerator programme to date are working with young people while Realising Ambition is supporting a further 24 examples of evidence-based practice to replicate and scale.

Through our research we were able to highlight some of the best examples of organisations that are working in partnership with schools to raise the attainment of those most in need. The Philosophy Foundation uses philosophical enquiry to increase critical thinking. Catch Up® provides teachers and teaching assistants with a tool for enabling struggling learners to ‘catch up’ in literacy and numeracy. 2nd Chance is a charity that is launching its own school, to provide a structured education and employment programme for young people 16+ who would otherwise not be in education, employment or training.

What these organisations have in common, over and above a commitment to supporting young people, is the need for capital investment to finance the development of their services, scaling up of their operations and, in the case of Teens and Toddlers, the working capital to deliver a payment by results contract. This is where the opportunity for social investment and the call to cation comes in.

The social investment market, with an estimated £600 million of capital available, represents a potentially formidable weapon for arming these social ventures to scale up their impact.

We believe that if social investors, foundations, government, schools and social ventures come together to work in collaboration we may be able to start making a dent in the attainment gap.


For more information on our research or to discuss how you can help take this forward please contact report authors John Loder, Gemma Rocyn Jones or Will Norman.

Read our Social Investment in Education report.

1. Based on 2011 exam results. More details here.
2. Number of children known to be eligible and claiming for free school meals in 2012. More details here.


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