Are school assets being maximised for local community and economic potential?
Our mission throughout the last 15 years has been to Inspire, Skill and Mobilise young people and show them what opportunities are out there for them. Our schools focus equally on academic performance, sports, and creative arts, showing students that there is more to education than just English and Maths (however important they are) while also providing sporting and artistic opportunities to young people whose parents often cannot afford to provide the equipment and fees themselves.
Last year we commissioned an independent report to look at the socio-economic impact Aldridge academies in Blackburn with Darwen and Brighton & Hove have had on their communities. We believe schools should not only teach and inspire the next generation, but also be a hub for the community, leading the way in regeneration projects and providing a central location for the community to use for anything from adult teaching to community sports, healthcare centres and emergency service hubs.
The report outlines the economic benefits our schools have already had on their communities, as well as highlighting some of the social initiatives we have already championed, including the Social Enterprise Challenge where Year 8 students are encouraged to build key employability skills through being creative and finding solutions to big social issues, and AfriDACA, an initiative where our sixth form students visit the displaced Acholi Tribe in Uganda, supporting the young people of the tribe while also broadening our own students’ world view.
Central to our belief that a school is about more than just education, has been our ability to demonstrate through the Socio-Economic Report, the amazing economic impacts our schools in Blackburn with Darwen and Brighton & Hove have had on their communities. For every £1.00 of investment made by the Aldridge Foundation, a further £10.41 of national Government investment has been made into the communities, with a total of £9.8m of Aldridge Foundation investment between 2014/15 to 2018/19 unlocking £102m of Government investment across the same period, totalling £112m of investment across the 5 years.
From this £112m investment, there has been a total monetary benefit of £870.1m, including £597.3m of educational benefits. Looking across a 5-year period, this means for every £1.00 of investment into the Aldridge academies in Blackburn with Darwen and Brighton & Hove between 2014 and 2019, there has been a delivered monetary benefit of £7.77. This includes £38.4m of Community Benefits, £92.3m of Staff Spending Benefits and £83.9m current value of assets, including school buildings and sports facilities.
The Socio-Economic Report also recognises the social benefits of the Aldridge schools and Aldridge Foundation. In addition to initiatives like the Social Enterprise Challenge and AfriDACA, the Aldridge Foundation also provided emergency support to local communities around the schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding mental health and wellbeing support for students and staff, providing 102 laptops and 22 free broadband connections to those without access to it at home, and enabling family outreach services for parents and carers of primary school students in Darwen.
The family of Aldridge schools support 891 jobs in Brighton and Darwen, including 429 direct jobs at the schools and 462 jobs in the wider economy such as supply chains and sustainable construction jobs.
Looking ahead, the report estimates that Aldridge academies could have a further financial benefit of around £1.39bn over the next decade, including £858m in Blackburn with Darwen and £534m in Brighton & Hove. With the Government’s Levelling Up agenda seeking to empower local communities and improve opportunities in the most deprived areas of the country, we believe this future investment will support, not just the young people attending Aldridge schools, but everybody living and working in the communities we call home, to maximise their potential and enact real local change.
Since founding the Aldridge Foundation in the 2006/07 academic year, our focus has been on growing our family of schools and establishing strong roots within the communities. In 2016, the Aldridge Foundation established a multi-academy trust, Aldridge Education MAT, with a separate board and leadership team, and transferred the schools into this new organisational structure. This allowed Aldridge Foundation to focus on philanthropic activities supporting young people in Aldridge schools and beyond to develop key life and employability skills.
The next 15 years for the Aldridge Foundation will see us not only focus on our core skills development programmes but also create a strong, evidence based voice to encourage wider skills development across education and the use of school facilities in new and innovative ways to benefit local communities both during and outside school hours.
BACA’s sports facilities are a great example of what can be achieved and we believe more can be done, using school facilities not only as adult learning and advice centres, but also healthcare centres, mental health advice surgeries, and emergency services hubs alongside and outside of school hours. Regeneration should start with schools.
School buildings and facilities are perfectly placed to be at the heart of levelling up the communities, offering a place for all ages to learn and develop new skills, as well as relieving pressure on healthcare and other community services by using the school buildings for basic health checkups, consultations and community services and events.
Our schools were founded on the principle of giving students the skills and opportunities needed to determine their own paths in life regardless of their background, and improving the communities they live in. Through the use of our school facilities we want areas like Blackburn with Darwen and Brighton & Hove to become aspirational places to live and work, with high skilled jobs and opportunities for everyone, whether you’re a healthcare professional, talented artist, or aspiring sportsperson, to thrive and achieve your ambitions.