A CHARITY set up to remember a gifted university student has stepped in during the lockdown to support disadvantaged New Forest secondary school pupils with thousands of pounds in grants.
Launched in 2019, Olivia Inspires celebrates the memory of 20-year-old Olivia Burt, who died in a horrific crush accident outside a nightclub in Durham, where she was a first-year natural sciences student.
The charity, which was set up by her parents Nigel and Paula who live in Milford, helps some of the most disadvantaged pupils in the New Forest district’s secondary schools and special education centres.
Nigel said: “The lockdown and the resulting school closures have had a disproportionate impact on the learning of disadvantaged pupils and have resulted in an increase in the already wide attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils.
“Olivia Inspires is working with the schools to help redress the balance.”
Olivia Inspires offered grants of £1,500 to each of the nine secondary schools in the New Forest district and £750 to each of the three non-mainstream special schools, totalling £15,750.
Many of the schools have used Olivia Inspires’ funds to provide laptops for pupils, enabling them to access online learning during lockdown.
Priestlands School in Lymington used the cash for six laptops; Arnewood School in New Milton bought two laptops and three iPads; Houndsdown School, Ringwood School and Testwood School each purchased seven laptops; and Applemore School used the money for five laptops.
The government funded laptops only for disadvantaged students in Year 10, together with care leavers and those with social workers, which meant many disadvantaged students received no help.
New Forest Academy in Holbury opted to use the funds to provide one-to-one specialist maths tuition for Year 10 students, and four students from Greenwood School in Hythe will be benefitting from equine assisted learning as a result of the grant.
Priestland’s headteacher Peter Main said: “This will not only make a huge difference to [pupils] in enabling them to access the work and tutorials being set online through lockdown, but longer term it will also provide them with a resource to really enhance their home learning and independence.”
Ringwood School assistant headteacher Heather Jolly said: “Thanks to Olivia Inspires’ generous donation, we have been able to buy seven laptops.
“These have gone to students who have worked exceptionally hard throughout these difficult last few months, despite having limited or no access to technology at home.
“This donation will mean they are able to access work from home, catch up on anything they have missed over the last few months, and continue to work hard towards their GCSEs and bright futures beyond.”
Nigel concluded: “It’s great to be able to help young people in this way because the applications for support from young people have dried up during lockdown.
“Like many charities the last few months have been difficult for us.
“We had several fundraising events planned and these have either been postponed or cancelled, so if anyone would like to do any fundraising for us that would be amazing.
“Now that things are starting to return to normal, we would like to get the message out that we are here to support any young person who needs a helping hand in achieving their dreams.”
To find out more about Olivia Inspires or to support the charity visit www.oliviainspires.org.uk