13 Mar WLZ’s Collective Impact Bond: a unique opportunity for schools
In 2017, money is tighter than ever – the public and charity sectors, in particular, are trying to work out how to make the small amount of funding they receive reach as many children as possible. This is why we believe that the signing of the West London Zone Collective Impact Bond (CIB) is so timely.
This year, a total of 132 children across three schools have been signed up to be part of the WLZ cohort as part of our ‘Collective Impact Bond’, thanks to working capital provided by Bridges Ventures. This means that these children are being supported by four different funders – the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Commissioning Better Outcomes’ programme, private philanthropy, and schools. This coming-together of commissioners represents a number of firsts for our sector: the first time schools have participated financially in a Social Impact Bond; the first time philanthropy has been used to pay for results; and one of the few examples of the outcomes being delivered by multiple different partners on the ground.
Why is this important? As Sir Paul Marshall, Chairman of ARK schools, said, West London Zone is uniquely placed to strengthen each contribution by bringing in additional funding from elsewhere:
“Rather than just writing a cheque and hoping for the best, we wanted to give in a way that makes the project more likely to succeed. We are proud to be supporting Britain’s first collective impact bond – commissioning an innovative service alongside government, councils and schools…. Projects like the West London Zone are the future of philanthropy.”
This additional financial leverage is also proving highly valuable to schools. Schools value how the West London Zone delivery model is able to save them time in managing the complex needs of children who are struggling to access the curriculum. Jason Marantz, Principal of Ark Swift Primary Academy, recently said that he found it “amazing to see so much targeted support going on”. Michael Ribton, Principal of Ark Burlington Danes Academy, has said:
“WLZ adds value to our school by bringing in extra support with academics, mental and physical wellbeing as well as a high quality Link Worker who organises it all and supports the children and families to make the most of it.”
Though it is too soon to be able to report any results for the 132 children we have just signed up, we have previously reported on our analysis of results from our 9 month Pilot in Hammersmith and Fulham in 2015/16. This showed encouraging signs: of 118 children targeted, 87% of those at secondary school improved in English, and 57% of those at primary school improved their behaviour.
So what does WLZ support actually look like for schools? Below, we have included a typical story from one of our Link Workers, which neatly illustrates how the model works.
First, with the help of his Link Worker, Jacob sets himself a set of goals, then monitors his progress (note that his parents are also engaged in this process). The pride Jacob feels is a reflection of the strengths-based approach we emphasise at West London Zone, as are the services we provide for him through our partnership of local charities. This interaction is just one of many (both formal and informal) that the Link Worker will have with Jacob over the course of their relationship – as one can see from their plan to play football in the near future!
Jacob is part of a specific group of children who we will work with for 1-3 years, chosen because they are at risk of poor outcomes in life (e.g. few or poor GCSEs), or have barriers to accessing the curriculum. We ensure that any partner support we provide complements what already exists in the school, and proactively manage this partnership every day so that they offer the best and most tailored support possible – with impact closely monitored and measured. All this provision is paid for through extra funding of at least three times what we ask the school to contribute, via the council, central government and philanthropy. And we only ask to be paid when we achieve the results we aim for.
Next year, we hope to take our model to schools in North Kensington, and, eventually, our ambition remains to expand our work across South Brent and North Westminster. We also continue to develop our work with pre-school age children and expect to work in four children’s centres this year.
Setting up the West London Zone Collective Impact Bond has taken a phenomenal amount of effort and bravery from all our commissioners, delivery partners, and investors all of whom believe, like us, that we can do even better in supporting the children who need it most. As Laura Stone, Deputy Principal of Ark Swift, said:
‘It is a fantastic opportunity for some of our students to have WLZ and the partners’ support layered on top of what the school already offers them. The students really value the additional adult support they are receiving.’
We look forward to welcoming more schools, Local Authorities, philanthropists, and charities to the Zone in the future.