As for many charity and business leaders 2020 has not unfolded as expected for Ben Cartledge (CEO) and the young people the 1851 Trust supports.
“In 2019 we reached 150,000 young people online and provided 7,500 sailing experiences to those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. We were well positioned to support even more young people in 2020, with the 36th America’s Cup build up giving supporters and partner schools even more reasons to get involved.” explains Ben.
Then in a turn of fate that could not have been imagined at the beginning of 2020, Covid-19 forced the closure of schools nationwide. The implications on education, especially for the most vulnerable young people in society have been far-reaching. One fifth of pupils, which is the equivalent of two million young people in the UK, have done less than an hour’s schoolwork at home each day, and just 16% of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are taking part in daily lessons.
“The attainment gap is something we have always been acutely aware of through our sailing and roadshow programmes, with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds being up to 19 months behind by the age of 16. As soon as schools closed, we began to look at what we could do to support young people at this difficult time.”
The education team fast tracked STEM Crew projects including the new pupil portal and developing a range of new remote learning projects. “As home learning has become the new norm for many, we have seen a massive 150% increase in daily activity and 1,044 people accessing the pupil portal in the first two weeks” explains Ben.
However, the team at the 1851 Trust are aware that the return to school will bring a host of new challenges.
“Many of the young people at our partner schools will have had no, or very limited contact with any education since March. Without additional support the UK’s young people are facing a shortfall, not just in learning, but also in the self-belief and skills needed to enter further education or employment and to thrive in today’s technology driven world.”
With the help of partners, the Trust plans to adapt its previously successful programmes to the new demands of schools, teachers, and students to ensure fewer young people are left behind.
“Young people’s futures should not be defined by Covid-19. We must deliver programmes that re-engage young people, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, with school-based learning after months of limited engagement. In due course our outdoor and interactive experience will act as an antidote to the months spent inside, giving young people the opportunity to spend time with peers and get excited by learning again.”
Despite a challenging outlook, there is still opportunity. In May, British Science Association research highlighted a marked uplift in young people who would now consider working in a scientific field as a result of COVID-19 – with 37% of young people now more likely to consider a scientific career.
Ben Concludes: “to prevent the long-term impact of Covid-19 on their futures it is vital that young people re-engage with all aspects learning, including communication and self-belief. Along with our partners, 1851 Trust has an important role to play in this. If we can get it right, there is an opportunity to inspire a much wider audience of young people about future opportunities science and technology can bring. That is still something to be excited about.’’
Read our full commitment to #closingthegap here.