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Our Priorities

The education system is failing children from working class and disadvantaged backgrounds. 

If we are to ensure that all children are offered the opportunity to succeed, then it is clear that we will need to do more to support them.

1. Supporting those who need it most

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It is now widely recognized that disadvantaged children were disproportionately affected by the pandemic and we know the same will be true of the coming cost-of-living crisis.

Disadvantaged children rely on their schools. Many of our academies find they are the places children turn to when things in their life are not going well. Indeed, incidents had happened at home (or away from school) are often brought to teachers, in a trusted space: it is clear the academy plays a familiar or parental role in many of our students’ lives.

“We make an unbelievable impact: we’re keeping children out of gangs; we’re making sure that children are finishing school, getting GCSEs; we’ve got some students going to Oxbridge: success is individual and it’s hard earned. Some of our children, with high prior attainment, come from our most challenging families: we want to widen their perspectives, to show them a different world they can be part of.” 
Peter Groves, Principal at HBAED

2. Supporting learning and our libraries

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“Students come to the library to seek solace during a busy day, they come for time alone or when they feel distant or excluded from others - and they find a kind and welcoming community once they’re here.”

Ella Taylor, Librarian at Harris Westminster Sixth Form

We want our libraries to be at the heart of our academies: we believe that literacy is the ‘gateway skill’ to unlock learning for our students and we want to create a culture of reading for pleasure.

Literacy is one of the key skills which was detrimentally impacted by the pandemic

In our Primary academies, 37% of pupils do not meet the expected standard in reading at aged 11: again, this is significantly better than the national average (48% do not meet this standard), but we do not believe this is good enough.

Being able to read well is key to success at school, and beyond. We want do all we can to support our pupils: donor support helps us to do more.

A gift of £10 a month, together with 10 others, would buy 150 additional books a year for an academy library

3. Supporting refugee needs

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Some Harris academies are receiving very high numbers of refugees. A sample survey indicated that 14 of our schools who have a refugee population do not feel adequately resourced to meet their needs.

Already, across our 52 schools, we have 34% of children with English as an additional language (national average 14%). We would be seeking additional EAL support even if it were not for the refugee need.

The need in these schools is growing at a worrying rate. In one of our academies, for example, in 2021, we had 4 refugee children. As of June 2022, we have 33 refugee children in this school community, many of whom come from Sudan, Eritrea, Kurdistan and Afghanistan. We are likely to have more joining the school in September. 

We do not receive significant additional Government funding or support to meet the additional needs – mental health needs, language and learning needs, uniform needs – that these children have.

We are currently unable to provide the vital support that these children need. However, when we can, these children can thrive: it is lack of funding, not lack of knowledge, impeding our interventions

“I just don’t see how these children are going to succeed under the current system.”

Pastoral staff member in a Harris secondary Academy

4. Supporting children’s mental health

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As with schools across the country, the need in our Academies is far outpacing our capacity to meet it. 

Nationally, one in six children reported a mental health disorder in 2020 and 2021, up from one in nine in 2017.

The link between disadvantage and mental health needs is now widely recognized.

Better supporting pupils mental health is key: this underpins everything we do and is core priority. We have appointed a central Mental Health team to work across our Academies and donor support is allowing us to strengthen this support, to better meet the needs of our pupils.



Regular donations help us plan for the future. To recognise those who pledge ongoing support to our community, we have launched The Friends of Harris.

Click here to find out more, or to make a regular donation

For a confidential conversation about supporting us, or simply to find out more, please email Emily Clarke, Head of Fundraising.