Through a new partnership between Bolton School and the youth charity OnSide, Old Boltonian John Roberts and his wife Sally will support 14 pupils with means-tested bursaries, funding two Year 7 pupils a year for seven years through to completion of their A Level studies.
This builds on their previous support for bursaries at the school over the past six years. The first two pupils, both members of the OnSide Network of Youth Zones, join Year 7 in September.
The donation is part of John and Sally’s ongoing commitment to support more young people achieve their full potential. The bursaries are available for young people that are members of OnSide Youth Zones to support their education and cover additional expenses to ensure they benefit from all the opportunities the school has to offer.
As a result of the gift, Bolton School and OnSide have established a new outreach scheme called Flourish to promote social mobility by encouraging a wider range of applications to the School’s bursary scheme. At the heart of its success is the high quality, dedicated work by OnSide’s youth workers.
Through the Flourish programme, Year 6 members of Youth Zones in Blackburn, Chorley and Wigan took part in activities including science experiments, performing arts workshops and graphic design sessions at Bolton School and received academic support ahead of taking the entrance exam.
This led to eight young people taking the entrance exam in January 2022. Three pupils were successful, with two bursaries being provided by John and Sally and one provided by Bolton School.
The Flourish programme will expand to Bolton Lads and Girls Club and Warrington Youth Zones this year, and work with Year 5 pupils throughout the coming Summer Term, and then during the Autumn Term of their Year 6 studies, to support them to undertake the School’s entrance examination in January 2023.
Philip Britton, head of foundation at Bolton School, said: “We are exceptionally grateful that John and Sally have chosen to make such a transformational gift to our Bursary Fund. John and Sally’s generosity has enabled us to develop an innovative outreach partnership with OnSide, as a means of reaching potential bursary candidates who might otherwise never even have heard of Bolton School, nor understood that they might thrive here.
“The Flourish outreach programme will ensure we can find bursary candidates with real potential, and support them to apply to the School, safe in the knowledge that there need be no barriers – financial or otherwise – to their future success. Our bursary pupils take the opportunities their education here provides and then go out into the world to make a difference for good.
“We are delighted that John wishes to pass on the gift of a Bolton School education to the next generation of Bolton School pupils, and honoured by his and Sally’s practical, wholehearted commitment to delivering social mobility through the School’s bursary programme and our partnership with OnSide.”
Bolton-born entrepreneur and founder of AO (online electrical retailer) John Roberts said: “Sally and I know that talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not. Bursaries are a brilliant way to level this up. Bolton School is an amazing place and we want young people from OnSide to have the same fantastic experience there as I did.
“It’s been brilliant seeing the two charities work together to make this happen – it’s definitely a model that could work in other parts of the country. The youth workers at OnSide are phenomenal at getting the best out of young people and bursaries like this are a direct way to support talent, wherever it’s found. We’re extremely proud of the new pupils and look forward to following their progress.”
OnSide is a national charity that funds, builds, launches and supports a network of state-of-the-art, multimillion-pound Youth Zones in the UK’s most disadvantaged areas. Helen Taylor, director of policy, partnerships and impact, OnSide, added: “Giving young people access to opportunities to fulfil their potential is at the heart of what OnSide Youth Zones are all about. We are incredibly grateful to John and Sally Roberts for their generous support which has enabled this partnership to make a real difference to these young people’s lives.”
John and Sally are long-time supporters of OnSide Youth Zones. John has been a trustee since 2015 and also served as chair of the Executive Board.