Caroline Notman is Director of Development & Alumni Relations at the College and has been with us for almost 7 years. She is also the Regional Vice President – Scotland for the Institute of Development Professionals in Education.
In Autumn 2019 when we launched the Aloysian Annual Fund for the College, little did we think that of our three key projects of Bursaries, new seating for the College Hall and Hardship, that The Hardship Fund would become so prominent.
Knowing that, each year, there are always genuine requests from parents for us to help with, for example, retreats or curriculum-related trips, it seemed sensible to make available a fund which our community might wish to support, to ensure funds would be available for those who may face difficult times, should the need arise.
However, at the time, our main priority was to raise urgently needed philanthropic funds for Bursaries. We had spent the last two years consulting with a cross-section of our Aloysian Community in Glasgow, London and the USA and refining our draft Case for Support. We had interviewed former Bursary Scholars who are now forging successful careers to ask them about the difference it made to their lives. We were embarking on the exploratory stages of a future campaign for the College to raise £3m for Bursaries over the next 5 years – to transform the lives of those who will benefit – through The Opportunity Fund. Moreover, when the Bursary Committee met in January 2020, they were able to make more awards than in previous years for pupils starting in 2020 -21.
Then came the Coronavirus pandemic and everything changed.
As soon as lockdown happened, fundraisers up and down the country were asking the same question: What happens now?
Very soon, concerned parents, who could see the financial impact this would have on their livelihoods, but also the knock-on effect to their children’s education, were getting in touch with the Bursar and Head Master. Would they have to remove their children from the College? Would they have to disrupt their schooling and uproot them from their friends? Some of these families have been with the College for a long time, even generations, and are part of the Aloysian Community, a family support network in itself.
Whilst there may be a perception that independent schooling is reserved for the extremely wealthy, in reality this is far from the case. Many of our parents have made a number of sacrifices to allow their children to benefit from the unique Jesuit education and values the College provides. In addition to this, 8% of Senior pupils are already on bursaries.
So, how was the College going to respond to this latest challenge?
As priorities for everyone have had to change, so too have ours. Bursaries will always be important and a key part of our values as a Jesuit School, but we realise that the immediate need now is to provide some stability and reassurance through The Hardship Fund for those young people whose families are facing an unforeseen financial crisis as a side effect of this devastating virus.
Financial re-modelling has been carried out at the College to ensure we can cover the cash flow problems that some families may experience as they defer fees for a few months. Other parents may have been made redundant, so the time-scale for securing a new job in this climate is unknown. In the worst cases, some may have to close their businesses. They have no income and do not know if or when they can start trading again.
The Governors asked the Head Master and Bursar to make decisions on a case-by-case basis with financial disclosure being given where necessary. It is important that there is accountability for the support provided, although the process is respectful and not demeaning for those who may struggle. This may be the first time they find themselves in such a position.
So, what else can we do to help? We need to raise around £200,000 to help those who have come forward already, and we know that in the coming months, other pupils’ families will be affected.
When asked by our Chairman of Governors, many current parents generously gifted a portion of their fees to The Hardship Fund. A digital Hardship Appeal has been sent out from the Head Master, and Former Parents have stepped up with donations, as well as Old Aloysians from North America to Europe who are also helping.
In thanking our Donors, we want to acknowledge the extraordinary historical significance of this global pandemic. We will mount a Donor Wall in the College to honour our supporters. With the obvious sensitivity around this, the anonymity of those supported will be paramount, but we will take care to share with our Donors the immediate and meaningful impact that their gifts have made.
As a fundraiser, I am very aware of the many worthy causes in our society that need support. There are many calls on peoples’ money, and they may not be in a position to give now because of their own circumstances. I also know the importance that a Jesuit education at the College places on being “men and women for others” and our Community supports many external charities every year. However, this time, it’s that little bit closer to home. We are looking to support our own pupils, at a time when their families are most in need.
If you wish to support our Hardship Fund, you can donate in the following ways: