Education Endowment Foundation:EEF Blog:​Philanthropy and state-funded education – why partnership is key

EEF Blog:​Philanthropy and state-funded education – why partnership is key

Blog •5 minutes •

Stephen Tall, Development Director at the EEF, looks at the role of private giving in state-funded schools. But first, there’s a quiz…

Be warned, this article contains stats. Here’s your starter for five:

1. Do you know how much money was donated to charity from all private sources last year in the UK?2. Do you know how much money was given away by grant-making foundations last year in the UK?3. Do you know how much money is privately given to support educational causes at the UK’s top charities?4. Do you know how much money is donated to independent schools in the UK?5. Do you know how much money is donated to state-funded schools in the UK?

How did you do? Answers below:

1. £17.5 billion* 2. £2.4 billion*3. £139m**4. £115m***5. Unknown

What do these figures indicate? Here’s my take:

1. The £17.5 billion of private giving is undoubtedly very generous, but let’s keep it in perspective: it represents less than 2.5% of current government spending.

2. Grant-making foundations are an important, but relatively minor, part of that total private giving: about 14%

3. Educational causes are not the top destination for private giving – the sector’s £139m in the survey was dwarfed by, for example, arts and culture (£233m) and animal welfare (£426m).

4. Independent schools are attracting a significant and increasing amount in private donations – more than doubling, from £50m in 2003 to £115m a decade later.

5. We don’t have a clue how much is being donated to state schools, though we can make a reasonable guess it’s less than to their independent counterparts.

There’s a reason I’m interested in these facts and figures.

My role at the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is to help generate a minimum of £42 million in external funding to extend the reach of our work, breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Indeed, it’s a condition of the Department for Education’s £125m founding grant that the EEF raises this additional money. So I was professionally curious to find out the lie of the land: how much is being donated to support this country’s state-funded schools?

Answer: we don’t know. But, of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. There are, after all, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) up and down the country doing what they can to top-up school budgets, even if the amount’s not been quantified. Millions of pounds have been pumped into sponsored academy schools in recent years. And just last October, Saffron Hall, a state-funded school in Essex, received what is believed to bethe largest private direct donation to a British state school: a gift of over £10m from an anonymous local donor.

Last week, Future First, which sets up alumni networks in state schools and colleges across the UK, released data from polling firm YouGov indicating that each state secondary school could raise an average of £30,000 each year from their former pupils for special projects like school trips and equipment. Its founder, Jake Hayman, reckons We’re talking about significant untapped sums, £100m is a very conservative estimate – the potential sum could hit over £500m. Private schools are raising around £120m a year in donations – I think state schools can easily exceed that within five years.” Future First has written a guide to help state schools get started with fundraising, while another organisation, Schools Funding Network, aims to match potential donors with schoolslooking for funding.

Fundraising within state schools: an increasing reality

Such talk makes some uneasy. Private giving for extras that state schools can’t afford, they say, all too easily morphs into paying for essentials that should be publicly funded. It’s a valid point. I cut my fundraising teeth in higher education, a sector where, in many institutions, private giving has moved from nice-to-have to must-have, an essential means of balancing the books. No matter which side of the argument you come down on, though, I suspect fundraising within state schools will become an increasing reality.

And where private money can increase educational opportunities for children and young people, few will argue against it. But there is an undoubted risk: that such fundraising will be most successful in the more prosperous areas, most tough-going in the disadvantaged areas. In which case, the attainment gap between rich and poor is more likely to be accentuated than reduced.

My purpose here is not to discourage philanthropy in state schools. Far from it. Education is many children’s route out of poverty, and we should celebrate those who want to give their own money to help that to happen at their local school

The special responsibility on grant-making foundations

However, I believe this places a special responsibility on grant-making foundations which give to educational causes in this country to take a system-wide view of the 25,000 state-funded primary and secondary schools. After all, the attainment gap is as stark and stubborn in schools rated Good’ or Outstanding’ by Ofsted as it is in schools found to be Requiring improvement’ or Poor’. The key question for me, then, is: How can we have the greatest impact in narrowing the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils no matter which school they attend?

No single organisation has the answer. It’s why the EEF aims to work in partnership with others, joining forces not only to grow the funding pot, but to learn from others and increase our collective reach.

It’s why, for example, we’re partnering with the Wellcome Trust to build the evidence of how the advances in neuroscience can be applied in the classroom; it’s why we’re partnering with J.P. Morgan to test a major new initiative to address educational inequality by recruiting and inspiring good teachers in disadvantaged areas; it’s why we’re partnering with SHINE Trust to jointly fund the trial of an academic and cultural Saturday school in Greater Manchester; and it’s why we’re partnering with many others whose aims align with ours.

And it’s also why we’ve convened with the Association of Charitable Foundations the School Funders’ Network, open to grant-makers with an active interest in funding work to address educational disadvantage, with the aim of promoting greater funding collaboration.

Money talks, partnerships listen. What works best, I reckon, is the combination.


* Cathy Pharoah, Richard Jenkins, Keiran Goddard, Giving Trends Top 300 Foundations 2014 Report’ (ACF 2014) [Accessed 10 July 2014]

** This figure is from a survey of the 500 largest charities receiving private donations in 2009-10. Cathy Pharoah, Private giving and philanthropy – their place in the Big Society’ (People, Place & Policy Online (2011): 5/2, pp. 65 – 75) [Accessed 10 July 2014]

*** Figures from the Independent Schools Financial Benchmarking Survey 2013, representing c.1,225 of the c.2000 independent schools in the UK. Total fundraising by UK Independent Schools has more than doubled in the last decade – 11 July 2013’, [Accessed 10 July 2014]