Note: There are several ways you can fund futures at Oundle, please visit our Giving Week page from July 21 – July 27 to find out how.
Schools such as Oundle were founded in order to educate. They varied as to whom they were established to serve, but the emphasis was on education itself: both for its own sake, and as something which can confer opportunity, and transform lives.
Education is the most powerful catalyst of social change by a wide margin, at both an individual and a societal level. It’s an inheritance for which we should be thankful, and a legacy we can leave for future generations. It was one of only three purposes confirmed as being inherently charitable when the concept of charity was first codified in English law in 1601.
It is improbable, however, that the founders of historic schools envisaged the expense of a modern education, nor the diminishing proportion of the population able to afford it. With the purpose stated in our Royal Charter being, somewhat archaically, ‘the provision of an education of the highest “class”’, we would be in breach of our charitable duty if we were to be so parsimonious as to substantially reduce the quality of the education that we provide.
But this does not blind us to the implications for our place in society. Quite the opposite: it has sharpened our focus on how we can be an instrument of social mobility, and not a barrier to it. This was one of the key reasons why we established our Funding Futures programme as the cornerstone of our fundraising for the foreseeable future.
I’m the grandson of a man who was himself the son of a “rag-and-bone” trader in the New Forest. That branch of my family tree is rooted, over many centuries, in the same small Wiltshire village. My grandfather, by being one of the first in his family to be formally educated, was able to establish a successful accounting practice in the City of London at a time when social mobility was an unusual phenomenon.
Not dissimilarly, Sir William Laxton was the son of a local Oundle trader. After a free, high-quality education at Oundle’s church-run predecessor on the site of what is now Laxton House, he ultimately became Lord Mayor of the same city in which my grandfather was enabled by his own education to practise. Laxton similarly credited his unusual and meteoric career path to his education, and chose to use his resultant wealth to establish, as a charity, what it now known as Oundle School.
I therefore sit amidst perhaps the greatest repository of cultural capital in the East Midlands thanks to multiple expressions of the same principle: that education transforms, and that those who have been transformed stand in a long tradition of ‘paying it forward’ for the benefit of future generations.
It is not just about financial opportunity, of course. It’s about the many different places that I’ve been able to find food for my inquisitive mind; the fulfilment I’ve found in research and intellectual enquiry; the pleasure I take in the arts, and being able to put them in context; and the joy I get from sports played well, and in the right spirit.
There’s even more to it than that. We seek to be a broad community of keen and interesting people drawn from all corners of the globe, and all parts of our own country. The broad intake enabled by our Bursary funding, and the inter-school relationships supported by our Partnerships programme, enrich everybody who participates – not just those whose participation depends on the work of the Foundation.
"It has sharpened our focus on how we can be an instrument of social mobility, and not a barrier to it."Matthew Dear, Director of Development
That makes us all the more grateful for the many generous donations we continue to receive from members of the Oundle community who stand in the same tradition of sharing with others the benefits that they themselves have received.
Thanks to that tradition, and that community, we offered fee remission of 100% (with additional support in some cases) to 38 children in 2019-20. We supported a total of 122 pupils with means-tested awards averaging 70% of the fee. Thousands of additional children have benefited in some way from our Partnerships, which the Foundation aims to support through its new Social Impact Fund, alongside raising funds for Bursaries.
Laxton’s bequest, though treasured, is small and illiquid compared to that enjoyed by many schools of a similar standing, and so we have only been able to widen access in this way thanks to our donors. We hope that many OOs, parents, and friends of the School will choose to join them by supporting Oundle’s Funding Futures campaign during Oundle’s first Giving Week. Those who do may be assured of our deepest gratitude, and of the transformational impact their donations will have on the lives of young people.