A grant to help disadvantaged students catch up with learning losses arising from the Coronavirus pandemic.

On March 23rd 2020 schools across the UK shut down for all pupils, except for children of key workers and vulnerable learners, and remained shut for the duration of the summer term 2020.   

We have lived through an extraordinary moment, through which teachers everywhere have shown their resilience, adapted swiftly to an entirely new model of remote learning, and provided reassurance and counsel to anxious parents and students alike. This period of lockdown has interrupted student learning patterns for over  5 months,  and it is already clear that some things about our schools may never be the same again.

We at the United Westminster & Grey Coat Foundation are launching the Covid Catapult Fund to kick-start projects across our five schools which tackle the learning gap for disadvantaged students. If you have an idea for a project, please read on and apply directly via the form below before the deadline of 16th October 2020. 

Rising Inequalities in Learning

One of the major consequences becoming clear from this period of lockdown is how social inequalities are being amplified. 

A recent survey for the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies has found children from better-off households are spending 30% more time each day on educational activities in lockdown than children from the poorest one-fifth. We know from our experience at Westminster City School and Grey Coat Hospital that not all students have access to laptops or tablets, and without access to a learning device, adequate internet or a quiet learning space in the home environment, these students will face significant loss of learning time. 

As another recent research survey by The Sutton Trust reveals, the quality of student learning and productivity is varying widely under lockdown: 24% of teachers surveyed say that fewer than 1 in 4 children in their class are returning work they have been set, whereas 50% of teachers in private schools report they’re receiving more than three quarters of work back. This inequality around student learning is of grave concern as it may lead to a permanent learning gap between students in the same classroom, driven not by effort or merit, but simply due to differing levels of income.

Can we catapult disadvantaged students forwards to help them catch up lost learning?

We at the United Westminster & Grey Coat Foundation are fortunate in having five schools with masses of experience and innovation to draw upon to help contribute different solutions to this immediate challenge. As part of a new pilot funding scheme, the Foundation is setting aside £50,000 from September 2020 for which school staff can submit project proposals to take forwards immediately. These projects are intended to produce additional learning gains for students most disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, either in your own school or those nearby. The Foundation is soliciting all staff to submit their preferred project ideas via the 2 page application form below.

There are three key areas that the grant funding is targeted at over the next two academic years:

Mental Resilience

In what ways can we help students recover from this time of trauma, and develop mental resilience for their future lives?

Teacher Training

what new skills have been developed by teachers during this period, and what skills do you anticipate being needed to reach students in the coming years?

Use of Technology

Given the rapid, wholesale switch to remote learning in all our schools, how can technology be used creatively and persistently to accelerate student learning going forwards?

Eligibility Guidelines

The Foundation is intending to make the application process as simple and as efficient as possible, because we recognise how scarce additional staff time is at each school to devote to a bureaucratic form. Nonetheless, the application process will be fair, and applications which demonstrate creativity, and a thoughtful approach to defining clear target student cohorts, measurable educational impact, and longer-term project sustainability will meet with the greatest success.

In order to be eligible for funding, projects will need to fulfil the following criteria:

  1. Continue for a minimum of 2 academic years
  2. Clearly identify a target group of disadvantaged learners who will benefit from the project activities
  3. Not exceed over £15,000 of Foundation grant money (but this can be supplemented by in-kind contributions or additional matched-funding by the school or other external donors)
  4. Evidence the signed approval of the Headteacher (or his or her designated representative)
  5. Report on pre-identified impact measures to the Foundation at least once every 6 months over the project’s lifecycle
  6. Provide a project budget upfront and a spending report at least every 6 months to account for how the grant money has been used

The application form below gives further instructions on details for submissions, although applicants are welcome to provide additional materials or impact evidence in support of their application if they so wish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Any members of staff from all 5 schools are welcome to submit their application, but every application will need the support of the Headteacher. Joint applications from staff at two or more Foundation schools are also welcome, but in that instance would need the support of Headteachers at all of the schools involved in applying.

There is some urgency for these pilot projects to start before the end of the first term in the 2020/21 academic year, in order to remedy the learning losses of students affected by the lockdown period. For that reason, application deadlines are due by 16th October 2020 and the successful projects will be announced by 16th November 2020 with project funding available immediately for those projects to deploy.

There is no minimum grant award amount, but there is a maximum of £15,000 for a single project over the first two years. If a project is envisaged to continue beyond a two year cycle, it would need to plan on finding separate internal school funding or further external sources of grant contributions. If a project can demonstrate particular impact success at the end of two years, there may be an opportunity to re-apply for further Foundation funding in year three, but that project application will be evaluated alongside other project applications at the time.

The Foundation is interested in projects that can respond swiftly to the learning needs of a particular cohort, namely disadvantaged students at our five schools who are most affected by the lockdown. It is likely project mobilisation will take some portion of the 2020/21 academic year to begin, and that learning benefits will extend for those target students over the 2021/22 academic year as well. Applications which can embed longer term institutional capacity for disadvantaged students will be viewed favourably, but it is not a requirement that proposed projects extend beyond the initial two year duration envisaged. In order to demonstrate effective improvements in the learning gains of target beneficiary students, two academic years are needed.

The applications will be submitted to the Foundation Executive Team, who will score all applications and pass the ranked list to a panel of four independent Foundation Trustees, along with their recommendations. The Trustee panel will then meet to discuss all the project applications and make the final decision.

Yes, feedback will be available for all applications submitted. Those projects which are considered promising and meriting further development will be encouraged to submit again during the following year’s application rounds. Schools and staff are encouraged to take a longer-term view and continue to apply each year. In some cases, there may be internal school budget to support modified versions of the project proposals.

You do not need to present an exhaustive list of impact measurements in your proposal; one or two simple ones that are clearly providing evidence of student learning gains or attitudinal change will be sufficient. If your project grant is successfully awarded, you will have some time (and Foundation assistance) before project mobilisation to create a set of fuller impact metrics. Think carefully about exactly what change your proposed project activity is going to bring about for the learning of these students. Are they exposed to new content or learning styles? Are they simply spending more time-on-task? Is there an improved way the students are receiving the learning content? As a minimum, you will need to quantify how many students are regularly participating in your proposed project activity. You might want to include their GCSE or A-Level assessment results, or a standard value-added score that is being used already within daily classroom assessments. Or you might want to give the students a feedback survey at regular intervals to understand whether and how their attitude to a learning topic is changing over time. Generally, the best impact measurements will combine quantitative and qualitative methods, which may help not only measure raw learning progress but also provide some explanations as to why the learning gains are coming about.

The budget you propose does not need to be extensive or exact, but it should identify the core costs (is it people, hardware, new books, trips or something else) and whether they are recurring or one-off? It should also be a way to identify how many students your project proposal is targeting and how many input resources each of those students is likely to need. (You should also be confident that you will not need more than £15,000 in total from the Foundation, in order to implement your project.) One useful way to sense check your basic budget is to think about the total cost-per-pupil over the 2 year project duration. If you are only reaching 50 students in the two years for a total budget of £10,000, that equates to £200 per pupil. On its own that is not telling us much, but if you can bring down that cost down to £50 per pupil, your project would reach 200 students. If you can think of a way to reach more students with the same or nearly the same quality of learning outcomes, that will obviously provide better value for money. Applications which provide some thinking around student reach and value-for-money are likely to be more successful than those which don’t. If your project grant is successfully awarded, you will have some time (and Foundation assistance) before project mobilisation to create a more detailed budget, and to establish the reporting requirements around project spending.

Application Form

COVID Catapult Fund Appeal

Any money you generously donate to the COVID Catapult Fund will support students within our schools hit hardest by the health and economic impact of COVID-19. Tackling disadvantage, your donation will include supporting specific educational projects tackling mental resilience, teacher training and technology innovation. Your donation will supplement the Foundation’s own ring-fenced grant, and will enable these projects to do more for the disadvantaged students across our 5 schools.

Charity Registration No. 1181012

To donate to the Foundation, please click on the link below:

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