PB: Can You Briefly Describe The EWF Vision?

The EWF is creating a national endowment fund to help comprehensive schools become the most wonderous and inspiring of all human places. Imagine our schools with life-size dinosaur skeletons, art galleries, planetariums, world-class sculpture, carbon neutrality, music events and much, much more. In order to realise this, we are building an initial endowment fund of £13m, representing just £1 for each child in the UK. Our children today must be able to play their part in becoming our greatest generation. They must become the heroes of our time.

The EWF is beginning the framework for an intergenerational approach to education – not to create greater economic output, but to help build a happier, more peaceful and more sustainable society.

PB: When Did The EWF Launch Its Unique Concept? Can You Describe The Response You Have Had? 

Since the publication of its Vision for Change, the EWF has attracted wide support, from world-renowned economists to Nobel Prize winners, academics, environmentalists, former Presidents of the Royal Society, authors, and artists. The response has been incredible – and we have barely started.

 

PB: Can You Briefly Explain What The EWF offers, Its USP, And Who It Is For?

There is nothing like the EWF nationally nor globally in terms of vision or intended provision. This is as an indictment as it is exciting. The EWF aims to help schools and communities who need inspiration the most. Schools which are in areas of high multiple social deprivation are more likely to receive project funding, as are schools which are acting to address the challenges of the wildlife and climate crisis.

PB: Who Or What Inspired This Ambitious Concept And Why?

British science teacher Jason West is the founder and CEO of the EWF. Before going into teaching Jason previously worked for an endowment funded NGO where he saw the benefits of this independent model. Jason came to the realisation that to fix the problems in this world we must harness all the talent, and all the brilliance, of all our young people. Yet our top professions from law, to journalism, politics, architecture and medicine are dominated by those who have been privately educated. Such inequality is set to increase substantially over the coming century.

As Jason was writing the vision for the EWF the entire board of the Social Mobility Commission resigned citing their inability to make meaningful progress. Jason commented ‘We are at a unique point in human history where rich nations like our own must think intergenerationally, much like those who designed and built our great cathedrals, we must have the same ‘cathedral thinking’ when it comes to education.

As the climate and wildlife crisis begins to impact on civilisation, the challenges we face will put immense pressure on our society. We must raise our coming generations to become connected custodians of our natural world, and empowered stewards of civilisation – and this begins with an inspiring education system which can attract and retain the best of us’.

Jason cites that he was inspired by Carl Sagans Pale Blue Dot speech at Cornell University which questions humanity’s place on Earth, and the futility of human conflict.

PB: Is There Anything Else Comparable To The EWF Concept In The World?

There is nothing like the EWF nationally or globally in terms of vision or intended provision.

PB: With Regards To Educational Success, Which Top-performing Country In The World Most Closely Resembles The Vision Of Educational Excellence You Are Aspiring To Create?

It is vital that we move away from the notion of performance being restricted to academic outcomes. Instead, we should ask questions such ‘In which country are the children most content with their lives’? Which country has the most peaceful society? Which country has the greatest social mobility?

Which country has the most innovative learning environments? In which country do children feel most connected to the natural world?’ The EWF’s vision is one in which academic excellence arises as a by-product of a love for schooling, learning and understanding. Where the teaching profession is revered. To this end the Nordic countries give us some good examples where the focus is on long-term system change, creating flourishing learning environments and a happier, healthier, more peaceful and more sustainable society as a result.

PB: Where Is The EWF Based?

Milton Keynes.

PB: Does The Board Have Trustees And Ambassadors?

The EWF has a board of ten brilliant and dedicated trustees from a diverse range of backgrounds, from educationalists, charity founders, lawyers, communication specialists and entrepreneurs. The EWF has over 20 eminent patrons and supporters, with exciting announcements coming shortly. In addition to this the EWF is developing a Youth Advisory Panel.

PB: The Concept Of The EWF States It Exists Purely For The Educational Benefit Of Learning Environments. Is This Solely For UK Schools?

The EWF intends to establish in the UK before expanding to other nations.  Helping a child to fall in love with learning in Mozambique is equally important as getting a child to fall in love with learning in Manchester. Equity of opportunity is our fundamental guiding value, not to drive greater economic output, but to ensure our species has a legacy on Earth.

PB: What Is The Main Priority Of The EWF?

Our main priority is to raise the initial endowment of £13m so we can help schools carry out transformative and exciting projects.

PB:  How Does One Get Involved With The EWF, Either As A Patron, Donor Or School?

We will shortly be starting a fundraising campaign with the aim of raising an endowment of £1 for each of the 13m children in the UK. To kick start our campaign we are recruiting schools to take part in the UK’s first nationally coordinated non-uniform day – the National Educational Wealth Day. More details on this are to follow. Donors and potential patrons should visit our website for more details.

PB: Has The Pandemic Affected The Progress Of The EWF And If So, How Have You Overcome These Challenges?

The pandemic meant that we had to have our inaugural board meeting, and all subsequent meetings via Zoom. As a group we are yet to meet in person, but what unites us is the desire to get things done and make a great legacy for education and in 2020 we became a registered charity. The pandemic has meant there has been an inevitable squeeze on funding.

The good news is there has also been, not just an individual, but a collective reassessment of what we value in life, with a greater emphasis on an education system that delivers happiness and mental wellbeing for our children. Education is about more than academic performance and the pandemic and served to add increased zeal to drive to help schools become the most wonderous and inspiring of all places on Earth.

 

Sir Peter Birkett is Chair of the EWF

Find out more about The Educational Wealth Fund on their website.