of partnerships between a Livery company and a school
& Notre Dame R.C. Girls Secondary School
by Philip Miles (Basketmaker), Chairman of LIvery Schools Link
The Basketmakers' link with Notre Dame R.C. Girls' Secondary School
began in 1998 when Livery Schools Link's predecessor organisation,
LOGVEC, put the Company in touch with the school so we could see
how best to work together.
The first project was to sponsor the school's new Certificates
of Excellence in Art and Technology, donating picture frames engraved
with the Basketmakers' Company's coat of arms to display the award
We then moved on to financing tuition and sourcing materials for
Basketmaking classes which the school decided to offer as an option
for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme at Bronze Level, for those
aged 14 or over. The first course was run in 2000 with a programme
of fourteen two-hour sessions working in a variety of materials
and techniques. It was a great success and has been repeated every
year since. Each summer the school holds an end-of-course party
for the girls, their parents, the tutors and the Prime Warden of
the Basketmakers who presents a certificate and a small gift to
each girl and delivers an address, telling the girls about the role
(both ancient and modern) of the Livery.
As well as the practical skills of the craft itself, girls can
learn about the history of basketry and thegrowing and harvesting
of the materials, thereby bringing history, geography and the environment
together in their studies.
The teachers report that the girls noticeably improve the development
of concentration skills and take pride in their work because they
engage so well with the subject-matter and materials. They can then
apply the skills and knowledge that they have acquired in the rest
of their school work, to the benefit of all.
Pewterers' - Support for an Islington Primary
When the Pewterers' Company indicated that it was considering
support for a school, the phone call came quickly. A Church of England
primary school in North London was in dire straits, with a failed
OFSTED inspection and languishing in Special Measures, any help
would be invaluable.
That was in the late 1990s and the school has moved on and, indeed,
been rebuilt. No longer are there rats in the building nor are the
children's loos outside in the playground. But there are still great
needs, which the Company can meet. After school activities need
sponsorship and Livery Companies are in a unique position to help
children get to know their own City. We make sure, for example,
that the top class is always introduced to Shakespeare through a
visit to the Globe on Bankside. Children from Year 5 are always
invited to Pewterers' Hall on Lord Mayor's Show Day. Indeed, one
year the Company, the school and City of London School for Girls
worked together to provide a float called Pewter in Harmony
We have also taken the opportunity to see how the school might
benefit from other Company activities with the result that we help
finance and take groups of a dozen or so nine year olds out of London
each summer to spend a long weekend at Whirlow Hall, a residential
farm for inner city children in Sheffield which we support. Set
between the outskirts of the City and a National Park it provides
hands-on experience for the children who, as the Head reported,
have "quite frankly the time of their lives".
The Pewterers' fellow at UCL Institute of Neurology also works
with us to enable the school to participate in the RCUK National
Science and Engineering Week each year, enabling the children to
conduct a day of experiments with a group of graduate scientists.
There is always scope for individuals to help in the school and
a member of the Company who attends each week works on literacy
with groups and individuals as well as producing school plays and
running the Poetry Club, one of the after school clubs so important
in modern school life.
For this school there is now a positive, if as yet hazy, understanding
of the Pewterers' Company and the City. When Special Measures were
lifted, we offered to mark the achievement and, at their request,
this took the form of a beautiful pewter Cross which takes pride
of place in the School Hall. Moreover, in the entrance hall of the
school there is a wall of individual pewter plaques, made by the
children under guidance from Company members.
Mercers - School improvement projects
The Mercers' Company has long supported projects that are aimed
at raising the aspirations and achievements of pupils in London
Maintained Schools, especially those in challenging areas. However,
the Company in its discussions with Inner London headteachers realised
that one-off grants are less effective than those where projects
can be evaluated over a period of time so that they can become sustainable
(i.e. without Mercers' funding) and replicable in other schools.
The Company therefore established its London Schools Network in
2005, initially supporting a group of 12 Inner London Primary, Secondary
and Special Schools in running projects on a small number of educational
topics. These are selected (and reviewed annually) on the basis
of those priorities identified by school heads that it is felt are
important for pupil progress and that are unlikely to be resourced
from mainstream school funding. Such priorities have included (current
ones in bold):
Literacy (particularly with targeted groups e.g. boys, or members
of a particular ethnic group, or at a particular age e.g. Key Stage
- Science and Technology in Primary Schools;
- Parent and Community Support for Learning;
- Enrichment opportunities for pupils from deprived backgrounds;
- The Arts in Primary Schools.
Annual grants average £5000 to £6000 per annum, funded
from the Mercers' Charitable Foundation. Each school has to put
forward a project proposal, with expected outcomes clearly identified.
The programme is approved by the Mercers' Education Committee, and
the year's budget is allocated (there are between 12 and 20 projects
running at any one time). The school receives a termly monitoring
visit from someone from Mercers to check progress, and then at the
end of the school year (usually early July), all the schools meet
for a conference at Mercers' hall and give a short presentation
on their projects to each other, to members of the Mercers' Education
Committee, and to other attendees from schools, Livery Companies
and Educational Trusts.
Schools can then assess how the projects run by other schools might
work for them and good practice can be 'rolled out'. The impact
of the programme has been very encouraging, with specific references
in OFSTED reports to the benefits gained by pupils from several
of these initiatives.