It is a pleasure to be writing my first report as chair of BW3. It is a position I have held for nearly two years, but this period has coincided with the global coronavirus pandemic, meaning the activities of BW3 have been significantly disrupted.
Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, there remain a number of significant achievements and developments worthy of note in this report. BW3 is in a financially robust position – arguably the strongest since its formation more than two decades ago – and the achievement of charitable status represents a platform to raise further funds and grow the activities delivered.
It has been particularly pleasing to note than more than 75% of our 220-plus members have contributed in some way to BW3 activities, delivering more than 3,735 hours of volunteering. Special thanks go to our management committee, whose members have led by example and delivered 485 of these hours.
As outlined below, the pandemic has not just presented challenges, but opportunities as well. Members have been able to engage in volunteering activities that have helped the Wythenshawe community recover from the crisis. This has hopefully whet the appetite of these businesses to participate in other activities in the future.
We have also embraced the world of Zoom, along with almost everyone else, and taken our popular Wythenshawe Business Gateway Virtual. This has maintained member engagement and, again, provides a platform to build upon.
I will now detail some of the highlights of the past year in greater detail.
BW3 officially achieved charitable status on March 25th 2020. It is hoped this will enable the organisation to apply for funding streams that were not previously available. Due to the pandemic, such opportunities were not covered during the period covered by this report, but a strategy is being developed by the Finance Sub-committee and will be enacted at the earliest opportunity. Thanks go to the committee members who have agreed to be Trustees of the charity.
Schools of the Year
During the initial part of the period covered by this report, it was agreed BW3 would extend Newall Green High School’s period as School of the Year. This was in response to the school being placed in Special Measures, and was in order to ensure the programmes initiated were given time to take effect.
During the extended period, a further 100 students benefitted, and a BW3 committee members was appointed an Enterprise Advisor at the school. This was bolstered by monthly meetings with the Assistant Head and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to track progress.
Unfortunately, however, it was deemed the school would have to close at the end of the year, staying open only for the remaining year 11 students.
Despite this news, BW3 continued to work with the school, delivering mentoring up until the coronavirus lockdown, at which point the school closed. From November 2019 – March 2020, BW3 delivered an eight-week rolling mentoring programme for 12 Year 10 students. Each got weekly one hour sessions from a business professional. A further 12 Year 9 and 12 Year 8 students were also mentored. All recipients enjoyed a celebration event at the end of the programme.
It was also a pleasure to work with Newall Green Primary, a large primary with around 700 pupils. Even though the school’s year as School of the Year was cut short, this did not detract from the value of our engagement. A member of school staff joined the BW3 Schools Sub-committee to provide knowledge and insight to enable us to offer informed and meaningful school initiatives. We ran a Numbers At Work event delivered to 87 year six pupils, What’s My Job was supported 21 business volunteers, and World Book Day involved the whole school for a morning, with 26 volunteer readers from a range of organisations.
Sadly, the pandemic has impacted our work with BW3’s new schools of the year. Therefore, we have extended their periods with this status and engagement continues on the best way to work together going forward. The primary of the year is Button Lane and the high school of the year is St Paul’s.
Numbers at Work is a core programme of BW3 and was extended to engage a minimum of 150 pupils, an increase of 60. The programme was delivered at a number of different schools, targeted at Years 5 and 6. When surveyed, 100% of those asked said they better understood the importance of maths as a result of the activity.
Exam Fit is a programme that was piloted on the back of our not-for-profit research partnership with Alliance Manchester Business School. The research, which is carried out each year, concluded that pupils would benefit from activity that improved their resilience. As a result, BW3 worked with St Paul’s to create Exam Fit, which helps Year 11 students improve resilience in advance of their GCSE exams. It was aimed at those with the ability to get grades 7-9, but who struggled in exam conditions due to stress.
The programme consisted of five weekly assemblies for all Year 11s, involving an aspirational guest speaker describing how they deal with pressure. Then, 25 pupils took part in workshops with a professional coach to help improve their coping mechanisms. Thanks go to Timpson’s and Manchester Airport for providing speakers. Sadly, this was a scheme that was curtailed as a result of the pandemic and options for resurrecting it will be explored.
Another project born out of AMBS research was the 4 Ls (Look With, Learn With, Lunch With, Link With).
The project team had looked at what employers want from your people and it was highlighted that the translation of the curriculum into real-life applications was often lacking. BW3 worked with Newall Green High School to develop the scheme, which was a month-long programme with interventions each week, focussing on different industries. Examples included construction, customer service and digital.
The format was:
- Look With – a business person speaking at a year group assembly
- Learn With – business person working with Faculty lead to create and deliver a lesson in a subject relevant to their sector
- Lunch With – an invitation to 10 students from the Learn With lesson to a lunch where and informal discussion and questions from wider year group can be posed
- Link With – five students from the Lunch With session complete a letter of application to undertake a further encounter with a study visit to the work place
What’s My Job continued to be a popular programme, pre-pandemic, and was offered to more students than before due to growing number of businesses taking part. Mock Interview Days were delivered on request, while BW3 also played an active role in the Wythenshawe Education Board.
The Wythenshawe Business Gateway is a primary mechanism by which businesses – members and non-members – are engaged with en masse. The format – involving guest speakers and informative presentations – and has gone from strength-to-strength and, prior to the pandemic, an average of more than 100 people were attending each session.
High profile speakers have continued to support the events, ranging from Andy Burnham to Sir Richard Leese. This has continued during lockdown, with the events proving popular as a digital proposition.
The virtual Gateways also provided an opportunity to trial new formats, including Q and A sessions, alongside more standard speeches and presentations. Turn out exceeded expectations at all events and feedback has been extremely positive. We look forward to continuing with this offer during the remainder of the year.
While many of BW3’s standard activities ground to a halt as a result of the pandemic, our commitment to supporting the economic and social wellbeing of Wythenshawe has not faltered. It was a source of great pride that in the early days of lockdown, we were able to support Greater Manchester-wide volunteering initiative. Our members helped with supplying food to the Manchester City Council food banks, as well as creative Good Neighbours toolkits and delivering PPE to community groups.
Through our links with the business community, our ability to disseminate regularly changing information to members about volunteering opportunities and support they themselves could access proved invaluable.
We were also able to supply schools with PPE and hand sanitiser – provided by local businesses – while members also donated computers and dongles to schools, so that vulnerable pupils had access to online learning.
Chair Of BW3,
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