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The boys done well;Benefactors

Who are the people who make a fortune and then give it away to schools? And why do they do it? Wendy Wallace finds a common thread in three of their stories: they stumbled in the classroom but later flourished in the 'school of life'.

Education remains suspicious of super-capitalists. But schools need private money to survive: whether it's a few hundred quid from the PTA or several thousands from an oil company or software giant. So why the suspicion? "There's so much negative publicity about charitable giving, about a hidden agenda of trying to influence things," says Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Technology Colleges Trust, a body which has overseen donations - worth pound;75 million - to specialist schools in recent years. "I've met very few sponsors who've had any sort of agenda of wanting to control the schools; most are very busy with other things."

But the exceedingly rich men (there was one woman among the 14 super-rich education benefactors we approached) say their expertise is just about as valuable as their lucre. "Warm money is worth a lot more than cold money," says Sir Stanley Kalms of the Dixons Group. Businessman Peter Vardy says:

"It isn't just a donation to charity. Education needs business experience and expertise. I'm interested, not interfering."

It can't just be for the tax benefits. Those who do it say giving money away to education in this country is not particularly easy. Tax incentives for charitable giving are lower here than in the United States - where giving is some 10 times higher - and arrangements less flexible.

What particularly irks the donors is the reaction of the education establishment. Private benefactors should command respect, said Vivienne Duffield last year when her foundation gave pound;1 million to the Natural History Museum. "Unfortunately in this country we call that elitism."

Most of the millionaires who give to education will admit to a harmless sounding desire to "raise standards". Michael Fischer, co-founder of Research Machines, and backer of an education action zone (EAZ) in Islington, north London, is said to have "a passion" for doing just that. But difficulties can arise when the culture of education locks horns with the world of business over how to achieve that shared goal.

Education philanthropy flowered suddenly and unexpectedly in the late Eighties when Margaret Thatcher's government introduced the city technology colleges - giving business the opportunity not just to fund new schools but buy substan-tial influence over the way they operated.

"An arm was put round a few wealthy folk and it was said that it was more or less like a donation to the party," says one donor. "A lot of money was given but the interest, the passion, didn't really stay there."

Now under New Labour, private money is finding its way into schools via the specialist schools movement which began under the Tories; there are 365 of them, each of which has had to raise pound;100,000 from one or more private sponsors to qualify for matched funding from the Government. Companies are significant players in the EAZs, where they are needed both for cash donations and assistance in kind.

New Labour certainly is not afraid of private money in education: the Technology Colleges Trust has raised pound;20 million since the election and major donors are feted at Downing Street. David Blunkett hassaid that partnership with business is "crucial to the way we want to see the education service develop".

Sir Stanley Kaims.

Chairman of the Dixons Group.

Sir Stanley Kaims sits in the Edgware room of Dixons Group corporate HQ in the heart of Mayfair. Outside, in the inappropriately named Farm Street, cars sleek as sharks glide silently round the clean streets, piloted by uniformed drivers. Dixons Group makes a lot of money u more than pound;250 million profits last year u and 68-year-old Sir Stanley, portly, steely-haired and knighted in 1 996 for services to electrical retailing, gives away some of it.

Quite a lot actually. He says it's difficult to assess how much of his personal wealth he has donated to education, but omillions, obviously.i Sir Stanley left his own Alma Mater u Christ's College, Finchley (still extant) at 1 5, with a headmaster's report stating that othis boy is lucky to have passed his exams He describes his own educational experience as oa mixture of appalling and sub-appallingi. He oabsolutelyi regrets not staying on through the sixth form. oIt's inexcusable, to leave school at 1 6,i he says. oIt sets you into an intellectual underclass. You can get over that barrier later but most don't.i Despite the clutch of honorary doctorates and fellowships which now adorn his CV, that early experience at the hands of the headmaster he calls a ohorrid little despoti still rankles.

Now as chair of the Dixons Group u which includes Currys, The Link and PC World u Stanley Kalms is founder and sponsor of Dixons Bradford City Technology College, sponsor of a chair in business ethics and social responsibility at the London Business School and principal author of a host of other major and minor donations.

Part of the impetus is religious u he is a omoderately observanti Jew u but more springs from a personal philosophy. oYou've got to be enthused by the idea. Cold money is worth a lot less than warm money.i He describes the ten forms of charitable giving under Jewish law, the lowest being that which is publicy advertised.

Why then the oDixons Homework Centrei, for instance, in Hemel Hempsted library?

Sir Stanley shrugs. oIt's our home patch and we want to show we've done something.

There's a real world of PR out there.i Dixons Group plc has a vested interest in promoting school success. They need staff with aspirations (oshould be taught as a subjecti), GCSEs and the ability to make eye contact, he says.

Disaffected young people who leave school or are pushed out without gaining qualifications or being equipped for the world of work pose a potential problem.

Jobless youngsters hungry for technological goodies thieve from shops like Curry's.

oYou can't blame them for wanting a nibble,i says Sir Stanley who started in his father's store in 1 948. oAnd putting them in prison only defers fhe problem.i But he maintains that the value to the company of giving to education is more about self-image than self-interest. oPeople are passionate about being involved in society,i says the man who, in Who's Who lists ocommunal activitiesi as a recreation. oAnd the message is that every action has to be based on an ethical foundation. That permeates all the way down to new salespeople, who even in a world of marketing hype must not lie to a customer.

Peter Vardy.

Chariman of Reg Vardy plc.

Fifty-two-year-old Peter Vardy is chairman and chief executive of Reg Vardy plc, a Sunderland-based company his father established from a horse and cart.

It now has 80 omotor dealershipsi from Aberdeen in Scotland to Reading in the south of England, with profits of more than pound;27 million last year.

Through the Vardy Foundation, he has given more than pound;3 million to education, half of it to Emmanuel College, a CTC in Gateshead.

A committed Christian, Mr Vardy is an an enthusiastic champion of both the north-east and Emmanuel College (oOutstanding. Best results in the countryi.) But he left his private school u with one 0-level, in music u to join the family business at the age of 1 6 with a view of himself as a school failure.

This seems unsoftened nearly four decades later. oBasically I wasn't clever enough,i he says. oI got off to a bad start in primary school with the basics, reading and writing, and never really recovered.i He says with no trace of irony that he is ogood at arithmetic nowi.

Although given more to action than introspection, Peter Vardy volunteers that it may be his early educational experiences that motivate him. oI never succeeded very well at school and perhaps that's why I'm interested now...i Despite his success in the school of life, he is othrilled to bitsi that his two sons have been to university and his 1 4-year-old daughter is likely to as well. oIt does make a tremendous difference.

They're more developed people before they hit the world of work.i As a young man he worked in his father's garage in Houghton le Spring, County Durham, sweeping floors and serving petrol. oI saw each day the results of the labour.

That suited me very well.i He took over the running of the business at 24, bought out his brothers some years later and when the company was floated in 1 989 set up the Vardy Foundation as a vehicle for donating money to charity.

When a group of fellow Christians u including a headteacher and a politician u introduced him to the idea of CTCs, he was immediately enthused. oI saw an opportunity to raise standards and give young people who hadn't had a good start the chance of an excellent education.

But supporting a CTC taught him painful lessons. oI didn't realise that it would raise such antagonism from education in general and local education authorities in particular. I was absolutely lambasted. I put my head above the parapet and got it shot off.i He says he understands some of the hostility.

oIt was difficult for us spending pound;8 or pound;9 million on a school knowing that others didn't have books to teach the children.

The LEA said 'give us the money to share out', but my belief was that it would hit the bottom of the well and not do any good. We wanted to create a centre of excellence for other schools to compete with.i A meeting with then Education Secretary Kenneth Baker u whose brainchild the CTCs were u convinced him that oit really was an opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper, build a new school, and run it in a businesslike and professional way, without a whole load of interference from education in general.i Ten years on, Mr Vardy maintains a close involvement with Emmanuel College and says he and his fellow sponsors would start another like it otomorrowi if the structure still existed. oI'm only sorry that the CTC idea only lived briefly He still supports smaller projects; the Vardy Foundation receives 1 0 to 20 applications daily, most of which he reads. oThere's some things I feel it's right to do.i He tends to look sympathetically on applications from the north east and has also supported church schools in Ethiopia and Bolivia.

He employs some Emmanuel College leavers and says that when students from the CTC come for work experience they are ohead and shouldersi above their peers from other local schools. But he does not take a reductionist view of education. He recognises the danger that pupils could end up with ohead knowledge but nothing in the heart and souli. He is respectful, to some extent, of education professionals.

oHere's me, a car salesman. I'm easily shotdown.i And forever marked by his own education. oIt's amazing I end up being a chair of governors when I've only got one O - level.i Lord Harris.

Chaiman of Carpetright plc.

Lord Harris of Peckham is probably as unassuming a multi-millionaire as you could wish to meet. From his Carpetright plc headquarters on the Al 3 u sandwiched between a mega Tesco and Fords of Dagenham u he plainly has not lost sight of his roots in the industry. Indeed the view from the boardroom window is of a lorry park.

Lord Harris u or Philip as he likes to be called by pupils u has given more than pound;10 million to education in the past decade. A major sponsor of Harris City Technology College in Croydon, Bacon's College, Southwark and Kemnal Technology College, Sidcup, he is also a benefactor of three Oxbridge colleges. He describes himself as very committed to the CTCs he has helped establish u oYou could not give money to state education until we had the technology colleges,i he says u and takes obvious pride in their achievements.

The Philip and Pauline Harris Charitable Trust also gives smaller one-off donations to schools.

Lord Harris left his south London grammar school at 1 5 when his father died, leaving him to take over the running of the family's three carpet shops. He now owns 340 carpet shops, so the lack of further education appears not to have held him back. But he says that captaining football and cricket teams at Streatham Grammar helped prepare him for business more than anything he learned in the classroom. oWorking out how we could try to win, often with not very good teams. And learning that it's the group that wins, not yourself.i He says that at school he believed he was obackwardsi because his undiagnosed dyslexia meant he was bad at English and languages. oI got through on my maths.

Maths was different in those days, you had geometry and algeborough (sic)i.

His dyslexia is severe, and shows up verbally in some idiosyncratic pronunciations. Even now Philip Harris says he could not write a full letter or read a book. His three sons are also dyslexic and the family's charitable trust has sponsorei specialist training for teachers in dyslexia.

A devout Tory, he believes the Government should make charitable giving to education easier. He thinks education is paramount, but puts motivation above intelligence. oI'd rather have a school motivated than clever,i he says. oAnd if I was picking employees and I had to choose between 1 0 bright motivated people and 1 0 academic graduates I'd pick the first, at least for this u what you'd call a practical business.i Lord Harris shruqs off the intense hostility which came his way when he put up pound;1.5 million for the Harris City Technology College. oI was accused of everything including wanting to turn the school into a carpet warehouse,i he says. oPeople don't understand. They think business people are just in it for business. I do it because I can see children who are going to give us a better life because through having a good education they're motivated to work. Everybody should be motivated to work.i I The Dixons Foundation, 29 Farm Street, London Wi X 7RD I The Vardy Foundation, Reg Vardy plc, Houghton House, Wessington Way, Sunderland 5R5 3RJ I The Philip and Pauline Harris Charitable Trust, Philip Harris House, 1 a Spur Road, Orpington, Kent BR6 OQR Other movers and shakers.

Lord Hamlyn.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation was established in 1987, with pound;50 million from the eponymous founder's publishing empire - begun off a barrow in a London street market. Education grants totalled almost pound;750,000 in 1997-98, including awards to family literacy projects, support for the anti-bullying charity Kidscape, social work and an access to higher education project in Kingston on Hull.

Described as "by nature on the side of the underdog", the 73-year-old left-leaning philanthropist, who was awarded a life peerage in 1998, has also been a major donor to the Labour party, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the National Commission on Education.

* The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, 18 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA Tel: 0171 227 3500 Fax: 0171 222 0601 e-mail: Sir Anwar Parvez.

Sir Mohammed Anwar Parvez arrived in Britain in the 1950s from Pakistan, where he reputedly walked several miles to school each day. Two of his sons went to Eton, however, on the back of the fortune he made through the Bestway cash-and-carry business.

A former Thatcherite, Sir Anwar - who started his business with a small eight-to-late corner shop in Earls Court, west London - has an estimated fortune of pound;100 million. In accordance with Islamic principles, Anwar Parvez gives a proportion of his wealth to the poor.

He began the Bestway Foundation in 1987 and this charitable trust receives 7.5 per cent of the after-tax profits of Bestway Holdings each year. Past grants have included support for IT at Brent schools near company headquarters, and grants to enable high schools to bid for technology college status.

* The Bestway Foundation, Abbey Road, Park Royal, London NW10 7BW. No further donations will be made until January 2000 Lord Sainsbury.

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation was established more than 20 years ago, with money from the plutocratic Sainsbury family. David Sainsbury - chairman of the supermarket chain J Sainsbury plc and now a government science minister - fell to second on The Sunday Times's rich list this year but still has a family fortune estimated at pound;3.1 billion.

The son of a knight and a graduate of Kings College, Cambridge with an MBA from Columbia, New York, Lord Sainsbury does not fall into the category of self-made men whose spirit of giving to schools is fired by a desire to make up for what they never had.

Last year the Gatsby Foundation gave away more than pound;28 million, much of it to projects which the foundation has helped to initiate.

Technical education is supported by the trust to encourage good teaching of maths, science and technology.

Trustees have recently em-phasised mental health and disadvantaged children, with grants going to a young carers project, Home-Start and Newpin among others.

* The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, 9 Red Lion Court, London EC4A 3EB Tel: 0171 410 0330 Vivien Duffield.

Vivien Duffield, CBE, is the daughter of the late Sir Charles Clore, one of Britain's first high-profile multi-millionaires. Following an impoverished upbringing in the east end of London - as the son of immigrant Russian Jewish textile workers - Sir Charles made his fortune in property, shipping and engineering and established The Clore Foundation in 1964, 15 years before his death.

His daughter Vivien Duffield (recreations: skiing, opera, ballet and shooting, according to Who's Who) took over the chairmanship of the foundation in 1979 and the Vivien Duffield Foundation was set up in 1987 "with the aim of continuing and consolidating the family's history of philanthropy".

Her primary interest is the Royal Opera House, but she has donated extensively to education. In 1998, she gave pound;1 million to the Natural History Museum for the schools' area, teachers information and discovery centres and activity rooms, with further grants to support education work nationwide over the next five years.

She lamented at the time that private benefactors in Britain went unrecognised, saying they should command respect but that "in this coun-try unfortunately we call that elitism".

The Clore Small Grants Programme was launched earlier this year to support museum and gallery education programmes. Direct funding to schools is rare.

* The Clore Foundation and The Vivien Duffield Foundation, Studio 3, Chelsea Manor Studios, Flood Street, London SW3 5SR Tel: 0171 351 6061 Fax: 0171 351 5308 e-mail Peter Lampl.

Peter Lampl, who made his fortune in investment in the United States, set up the Sutton Trust in 1997 "with the main objective of providing educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds". The son of a Czech emigre who became a successful businessman, he attended grammar schools in Reigate and Cheltenham and read chemistry at Oxford.

He began the trust when he returned to Britain after years abroad to discover that educational inequality had increased rather than decreased as his generation of Oxbridge undergraduates had assumed it would. (In 1970, more than 60 per cent of Oxbridge students came from state-funded schools; by 1998 the figure had dropped to 45 per cent.) The trust will spend pound;1.2 million on education in 1999 and next year will underwrite the fees of the first "open access" independent day school - Belvedere School for Girls in Liverpool - where pupils will be admitted purely on merit. Lampl, who devotes most of his time and zeal to education causes, has sponsored summer schools to encourage high-achieving state-school pupils to apply for Oxford and Cambridge, partnerships between state and independent schools and in-service training for teachers. With two young children himself, his trust has a growing interest in schemes which address problems of early learning in the under-threes.

lThe Sutton Trust, Heritage House, 21 Inner Park Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 6ED Tel: 0181 788 3223 Fax: 0181 788 3993 E-mail Garfield Weston.

The publicity-shy Garfield Weston, chairman of Associated British Foods plc and inventor of the Wagon Wheel biscuit, has a personal fortune estimated at pound;1.5 billion. Born in Canada, he was one of nine children and came to Britain in 1931. Garry Weston, who is said to take the bus to work sometimes and enjoy pottering about with the lawnmower at weekends, recently gave a second pound;10 million lump sum to the British Museum.

The Garfield Weston Foundation - begun by his father Willard Garfield - is one of the biggest spenders, giving away more than pound;26 million in the financial year 1997-98 alone. Education often receives the highest proportion of funding but grantmaking policy is that only applications from UK-registered charities can be considered.

* Garfield Weston Foundation, Weston Centre, Bowater House, 68 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LQ Tel: 0171 589 6363

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