A Disadvantaged Pupil Needs You. Please Help.

You have your A* Results. You are now at one of the top universities in the world. But just 36% of children eligible for free school meals pass their English and Maths GCSE. They need your help. Will you join the makesense programme and show real leadership-in-action?

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In what feels like the dim and distant past, but in reality was only February, I attended the Columbia Laidlaw Scholar's Leadership retreat. There I heard three extraordinary speakers talk about moral leadership. One of them was Obama Foundation Scholar, Christian Vanizette, co-founder of the charity, makesense

He explained that sometimes, even when governments know what the problem is, they are simply too big, too unwieldy, too insular, too distracted by multiple priorities, to act. Even when the need to do so is urgent. Case in point: French Polynesia is composed of 118 islands and atolls, there is a very real danger that rising sea levels due to climate change will submerge them. The local government can act with bandaids -- moving people from affected islands to higher ones for instance - but they cannot solve the climate change issues which are being caused by countries over ten thousand kilometres away; that needs a global movement working from the ground up. Christian and his colleagues decided to mobilise citizens from all over the world to connect with other citizens to help solve this and other societal and environmental challenges; and so makesense was born. 

makesense inspires and equips citizens, entrepreneurs and organisations to build a more inclusive and sustainable society - together.

makesense now has over 130,000 volunteers working on 8000+ local projects. Their model is to create tools and frameworks for volunteers to be trained in and then use and adapt locally to create real impact quickly. Each group of volunteers then goes on in turn to recruit and mobilise more volunteers to do the same. They update their tools and guidance in real time, so every week, every group of volunteers learns how to create even more impactful change faster. 

Then Covid19 happened. And, embodying the Laidlaw Scholar values, Christian and his co-founder Alizée Lozac'hmeur, pivoted fast. They turned their attention to how they could support the most vulnerable in society, those who would be most affected by the virus. In just one week, they had helped over 1000 homeless, 1000 senior citizens and hundreds of healthcare workers. Here's Christian explaining how it happened:

They want their movement to be as viral as the virus itself. But in a good way. We, the Laidlaw Foundation, are joining them in order to add education to their list of programmes. We really hope that you, our extraordinary scholars, will too.

Even before the pandemic, the attainment gap between privileged and disadvantaged pupils (studied as the socioeconomic achievement gap) was shocking. Just 36% of children who are eligible for free schools meals pass their English and Maths GCSE in the UK. In the US the achievement gap was increasing. Now, every indicator suggests that remote learning will have exacerbated the situation. Just 19% of children attending state school engaged with remote learning during the lockdown, compared with over 50% of children at private schools. 

With another month of school via remote learning for the majority of children before the summer holidays, and in all probability a blended approach when schools return in August / September, we need to act now. The makesense / Laidlaw Scholars programme is designed to answer the challenge of:

How do we support children, parents and teachers during the Covid-19 crisis to make sure children continue to learn and aspire?

We have three objectives in launching the programme:

1. To support makesense in rolling out their Covid-19 Re-Action programme to include Education: ensuring that disadvantaged children in the UK and US engage with amazing digital learning that closes the attainment gap.

2. To support our multi-academy trust, The Laidlaw Schools Trust (LST), based in the northeast of England by implementing the findings of the programme in its schools; and (this is where you come in):

3. To provide a 6-week Leadership-in-Action opportunity for Laidlaw Scholars.

During your Leadership-in-Action placement you will:

  • help disadvantaged communities gain access to devices (hard to learn remotely if you can't go on-line)
  • support teachers who are not digital natives and are struggling to create engaging on-line materials (really hard to change the whole way you work and move your classes on-line, especially if you are dealing with family and mental health issues at the same time)
  • explore innovative ways to revolutionise "attendance" and make educational screen time as compelling as gaming and social media (it is not as if young people don't like being on their devices, so ....)
  • work with parents, many of whom did not have positive experiences at school, to help them support their children's remote learning
  • recruit and mobilise new volunteers to tutor and support disadvantaged pupils
  • CRITICALLY: evaluate and makesense and Laidlaw partnership to build a model framework for future Leadership-in-Action programmes.

If you have not been able to organise your research project this summer (both 2019 and 2020 scholars) then you could do this instead; for 2020 scholars you would be swapping your research and leadership summers. Alternatively, we would be delighted if you added this as an additional activity for this summer; carrying out BOTH a research and a leadership project. You would of course receive two full stipends.  

The Leadership in Action placement is six weeks. It can all be done remotely if your home is still in lock-down.

Your university programme administrator has all the details. You can also find them and register here: https://makesense.org/en/re_action-education/. I really hope that you do. 

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment here, connect with me on LinkedIn or email me susanna.kempe@laidlawfoundation.com

Thank you in advance for paying it forward.

Susanna Kempe (she/her)

CEO, Laidlaw Foundation

A graduate of Cambridge University, Susanna’s professional experience includes over 15 years in senior leadership roles in international B2B and learning businesses. Susanna began her career at the Institute for International Research (IIR) where she first worked with Lord Laidlaw, rising to Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). When IIR, which was the world’s largest organiser of commercial conferences, was acquired by Informa plc in 2005 Susanna was appointed CMO of the enlarged group and also led the public company’s investor relations programmes. She subsequently joined Emap Ltd as Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer and CEO of Emap Networks, that group’s conferences business. Later she became CEO of the fashion industry forecaster WGSN and was latterly Group Content and Marketing Partner of the leading strategy consultancy Brunswick Group. A German-American raised and educated in the UK and a committed internationalist, Susanna has been involved in globally trading businesses throughout her career, directing activity in the Americas, across continental Europe, and the Asia Pacific. Susanna has been extensively involved with education and professional development over many years. She was Head of Group Training and led the commercial acquisition and integration of a portfolio of corporate training businesses whilst at IIR; and created learning academies at both Informa and Emap. She believes experiencing and appreciating different cultures promotes better global understanding, creativity and leadership. She is passionate about the power of education to transform lives; and believes that we need to develop a new generation of diverse leaders who are curious, bold and devoted to decency, truthfulness, and innovation. Susanna is committed to diversity not only as a societal imperative but as a critical component of commercial success. As an advisor to the trustees of the Foundation, Susanna first learnt about its purpose and programmes before becoming its Chief Executive responsible for the Laidlaw Schools Trust, the Laidlaw Scholars and its other education programmes. Susanna read English and Philosophy at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. She has five half blues in swimming and water polo; and played netball and rowed for Newnham.


Go to the profile of Anna Harris (she/her)
over 1 year ago

I'm really excited by the leadership in action programme with makesense and would love to offer my support. However, as a 2019 scholar I'm finishing my research this summer and I'm worried I wouldn't be able to commit the time to the programme that it deserves. How much of a time commitment is the makesense program? Would I be able to give it enough attention alongside the 9-5 of research?

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe (she/her)
over 1 year ago

Hi Anna,

It is a six week immersive programme so I am afraid you could not do it at the same time. It starts on Monday though, is there any chance you can do it BEFORE your final research stint? You would obviously receive a stipend for both. Alternatively, there is a two week volunteering programme that we're running along side which could be fit around the research. 

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe (she/her)
over 1 year ago

Anna, another thought, have you spoken with Alex about how to fit both in? He may have some ideas.  Let me know if you'd like to chat about it some more.

Go to the profile of Anna Harris (she/her)
over 1 year ago

Thanks Susanna, I'll have a chat with Alex, :) 

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe (she/her)
over 1 year ago

We're oversubscribed! Thank you so much to everyone for your amazing response. We can no longer add any more participants to the leadership_in_action programme. If you'd like to join the two week volunteering programme, there are still some places; just follow the link above and click on the relevant button. For those who have signed up to the leadership initiative HUGE thanks again, look out for your first substantive comms from the team on Saturday and good luck for Monday when it all kicks off properly. I can't wait to hear how you all get on.

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe (she/her)
over 1 year ago

PS: if your research cannot go ahead this summer because of Covid19 restrictions, and this initiative really inspires you and so you would ideally like to swap your 2020 Leadership_in_Action experience to this summer and do your research next summer, please contact your university administrator today and we can try to squeeze you on.