Many of our finest independent schools were founded for the public good and the vast majority continue to have a strong tradition of charitable giving and community involvement.
Dauntsey’s was founded in the sixteenth century by William Dauntesey. Dauntesey went to London to make his fortune and became Master of the Mercers’ Company. His will left his London properties to the Livery Company and tasked his executors with building and maintaining the school and almshouses that became Dauntsey’s. Almost five centuries after the school’s founding, thinking about others continues to be an important part of the school’s DNA.
All independent boarding schools have extensive charitable programmes.At Dauntsey’s, charitable giving focuses on a single cause each year. The pupils select a charity – alternating between a local and international cause – and then organise a wide range of fundraising activities, from car washes to tea parties to choral concerts. In the past ten years pupils have raised nearly £250,000. We also have a longstanding relationship with an orphanage in Romania. Pupils visit each year to run activities for the children and fundraise to finance the programme.
The principle of extending our educational reach and making our expertise and facilities available to people in the local community is an important one for independent boarding schools. It enables us to build stronger relationships with those we live and work alongside.Most independent schools have close relationships with neighbouring state schools and the wider community.
Activity generally falls into two categories – outreach, which involves activities for local primary schools, and community service, which focuses on pupil-led activities and public events.
At Dauntsey’s, one of the main forms of outreach is regular sports coaching. We visit nine local primary schools to provide training sessions, practice drills and games for pupils of all abilities. Each term we focus on a different sport – hockey, football and cricket – and then hold a tournament where all the schools compete against each other. It’s always a big event and our sixth formers, some of whom are taking the sports leadership course, help out with umpiring, refereeing and organisation.
Another outreach programme involves design technology. Year 6 primary school pupils come to the school in the summer term to design and make a clock, which they then take home, while Dauntsey’s pupils visit local schools to help out.
Pupils at independent boarding schools are actively encouraged to get involved in community service activities. Some join in as part of their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award but many volunteer simply because they want to. One of the options Dauntsey’s pupils find most rewarding is visiting local primary schools to listen to children reading or to help with mathematics or languages. Pupils also help in charity shops and visit the elderly in local retirement homes.
Many independent boarding schools also open up and share their facilities with the local community. At Dauntsey’s we host many events for local residents and value our close links with them. The school is very much part of the village.
The Memorial Hall at Dauntsey’s is one of the largest venues in Wiltshire. It is used not only for our extensive drama and music programmes but also for the annual Mercers’ Lectures, so called in memory of the school’s links with the Mercers’ Livery Company. These lectures are open to the public and are very popular. This year speakers have included the historian Dr Bettany Hughes, the adventurer, naturalist and presenter Steve Backshall, the rugby referee Nigel Owens, who talked about sport and mental health issues, and Olympic rowing champion Major Heather Stanning OBE.
I am a strong advocate of the benefits of community outreach for everyone involved. Independent schools were largely founded on charitable giving and service and today this has evolved into a strong sense of partnership with neighbouring schools and the local community. I hope we are seen as an important asset to the community for all generations.
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