Charitable trusts give more than £350m to education annually. Louise Germaney looks at some of the biggest grant-giving foundations.

THERE ARE SEVERAL thousand grant-giving trusts and foundations in the UK. This article will highlight some of the charitable trusts that set up to distribute grants to educational projects across the UK. I will look at some of the current priorities within a number of large national trusts, and will consider what types of educational projects have recently been supported.

Statistics on the UK trust sector

Charitable trusts and foundations are registered charities themselves, established to distribute money to selected good causes. The words ‘trust’ and ‘foundation’ are virtually synonymous. All charitable foundations are trusts, managed by a board of trustees. A charitable foundation derives its income from an endowment in the form of cash, shares or property usually donated by a wealthy individual or a large company. There are several thousand in the UK; they each differ enormously in size and scope and only a few hundred have paid staff. The majority of trusts are very small and award grants in restricted geographical areas. As local trusts are often run by volunteers, it’s no surprise that many fundraisers refer to fundraising from the trust sector as a ‘black hole’, as many trusts do not have the resources to reply to you in writing. It is estimated that as a sector, trusts provide over £2bn in grants each year. Some 13% of grants went to education, representing 17% of total expenditure.

What do trusts tend to fund?

The types of activity or groups that are generally favoured by the trust sector include:

  • new methods of tackling problems
  • disadvantaged and minority groups
  • responses to new needs or problems
  • work which is hard to finance through conventional fundraising
  • one-off projects
  • short term work which will lead to other funding from elsewhere.

Additionally, bear in mind that such trusts will not give money to a general school fund, but will fund a project that advances education. However, they may insist on funding a charitable PTA or support association instead of the school itself. Many of these have been set up to support activities to benefit children and young people themselves.

How to find out more

The funding website contains details and a search facility on every local and national trust in the UK. You can search by postcode area and by type of school. Access to the site costs £150 a year, but it is free to all schools whose PTA is a member of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA).

Trusts set up to support education
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation – annual budget £26m

This is the largest independent UK foundation, and awarded £5.6m to education in 2005, with the average grant size £44,032.

Current priorities of the foundation are: ‘New approaches to education’ (0-16 year olds) aimed at:

  • improving the quality and relevance of pre-school and statutory education (0-16) by giving young people, parents and carers more say in how, when, where and what young people learn
  • improving pupil motivation, behaviour and attainment in schools through strategies that promote young people’s emotional, social and moral development (note this does not include routine aspects of the citizenship curriculum)
  • increasing the skills and confidence of primary school and early years’ staff in teaching the arts.

‘Hard-to-reach learners’ (3-16 year olds) aimed at:

  • helping young people (3-16) excluded from school to value and reengage with education
  • inspiring hard-to-reach adults to engage with learning through imaginative and informal education programmes
  • giving hard-to-reach parents or carers the confidence to support their children’s education and to learn for themselves.

All applicants should contact staff on tel: 020 7297 4722 for advice before applying.

The foundation recently funded experimental playground equipment and a development worker to support lunchtime staff to get involved in the running of the school day.

See for more details.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation – annual budget £6m

The foundation is concerned about young people who are affected by inequality and disadvantage. It supports initiatives which address these issues, or seek to combat disaffection and alienation in young people.

Priority is given to:

  • projects which focus on issues of school exclusion and truancy
  • applications from supplementary schools
  • innovative educational projects concerned with young offenders.

The foundation recently funded a pupil parent partnership in London.

See for more information

The Gulbenkian Foundation – annual budget £2.1m

Awarded £587,000 to education in 2003. Current themes under the Educational Innovations and Developments scheme include ‘Helping Schools, Helping Parents’ which offers assistance to:

  • primary and secondary schools, and those agencies that work with them, to enable them to provide educational opportunities for ‘hard to reach’ parents with particular regard to parenting skills
  • primary and secondary schools, and those agencies that work with them, to enable them to offer support to all parents at significant stages in their child’s development (ie transition from primary to secondary school, adolescence, etc).

The trust also runs ‘The Arts Included: Support for the Arts in Pupil Referral Units and In-school Learning Support Units’. This programme is designed to encourage, at a strategic level, arts activities in PRUs and LSUs with a view to promoting pupils’ personal, social and emotional development. In particular, the programme aims to support the engagement of professional artists in these settings. Assistance is offered for training initiatives that:

  • help teachers in PRUs/LSUs initiate arts projects or residencies by artists/ companies with greater confidence
  • help artists/companies develop a better understanding of the culture and needs of PRUs/LSUs.

See for more information.

Garfield Weston Foundation – annual budget £38m

Awarded £9m and 170 grants to education in 2005, with three grants of £1m in this category.

Almost all large grants are for capital projects. The trust makes awards to schools and colleges, both fee paying and state sector, and usually for unspecified purposes. In fact the trustees have no specific priorities, nor any exemptions excepting animal welfare charities. The foundation supports only UK registered charities (this could include a school PTA or ‘friend’ group) unless the organisation is exempt from charitable status – eg church schools. It recently funded a Saturday club in a community school to improve the literacy and numeracy of students.


Sutton Trust – annual budget £1.5m

The Sutton Trust tends to fund projects in a formal education setting, working primarily with organisations such as schools, universities, community groups, charities and research bodies. Grants range from £1,000 to £25,000.

Its work with the secondary school age group is focused on gifted and talented students. The Sutton Trust makes grants to projects that provide educational opportunities for able young people from non-privileged backgrounds. The projects range from early years (0- 3 year olds), through primary and secondary schooling, to further and higher education, including research projects, with an emphasis on innovative startup projects that have the scope to benefit large numbers in the future. The trust does not fund individuals or capital projects. It has previously funded:

  • ‘master classes’ for primary school children and projects which aim to raise aspirations and encourage students to continue to higher education
  • independent/state school partnerships in partnership with the DfES.

It is committed to supporting four specialist schools a year with the Specialist Schools Trust.


Wolfson Foundation – annual budget £31m

Although this large foundation doesn’t publish much information and is thought to be weak on grant-making policy and practice, they did fund a substantial schools programme in 2005, awarding grants to 52 secondary schools ranging from £5,400 to £50,000. A further £1.3m was awarded to 46 secondary schools, funding equipment and building projects mainly for the teaching of science and technology

No website is available.

Clore Duffield Programme (UK)

This programme has two schemes: main grants for education and small grants for performing arts. The main grants scheme has a fairly broad policy and includes education, the arts and social welfare as priorities for 2006. However, schools that wish to undertake activities that enable young people aged 0-18 to experience the performing arts may be eligible to apply for funding under the small grants for performing arts education programme. This is a £1m programme that will operate between 2005 and 2010. Schools can apply for funding of between £1,000 and £10,000. The next closing date for applications is 16 September 2006.

See for more information.

The Football Foundation

The Football Foundation is a unique partnership funded by the FA Premier League, the Football Association and the government. The foundation is the UK’s largest sports charity and is playing a key role in revitalising grass-roots sport, investing in parks, schools and playing fields and within communities, to promote education and social inclusion. Its mission is to improve facilities, create opportunities and build communities. Football Foundation grants have supported 1,897 projects worth over £360m. To date the foundation has:

  • funded over 200 changing pavilions
  • provided 100 schools with new football facilities
  • built over 85 artificial turf pitches
  • supported 750 community initiatives, using football as a vehicle to tackle issues including crime, drug abuse and social exclusion
  • given over 100,000 children free kit and/or equipment through their Junior Kit Scheme.

With grants ranging from £100 to £1m, the foundation can help schools with a new changing room, community project, floodlights, pitch drainage or football kit.


Give them a call

Remember that many of the large charitable trusts have telephone help lines that will enable you to ask basic questions about your project ideas before submitting any bids. This can save you time and resources, as it may mean that your project is best submitted at a different time, or in a different format.

Louise Germaney teaches the Certificate in School Fundraising, an accredited online course for school leaders and support staff on how and where schools can apply for funds. For more information visit