Press release: Charity launches “Bridging the Gap” campaign & talk series

27 February 2017

Speakers for Schools calls for more support to bridge the gap for state school pupils

Charity launches ‘Bridging the Gap’ talk series with top figures from industry and government and announces 2017 work experience platform

Speakers for Schools, the national education charity dedicated to inspiring and empowering state school students to reach their full potential, is celebrating its 5th anniversary by launching its ‘Bridging the Gap’ talk series and calling on leading UK employers to support its work experience platform and provide opportunities to match the ambitions of young people.

The talk series, which launches this week, brings together 35 leading figures in public life from diverse backgrounds to deliver individual talks in state schools and colleges throughout the country. The campaign talks will reach an estimated 4,500 students, with the objective of broadening their horizons by allowing them to hear directly from key figures currently shaping the UK.

The range of speakers taking part include: Dame Helen Alexander  (Chairman, UBM plc), Matt Brittin (President, EMEA Business and Operations, Google),  Mark Carney (Governor, Bank of England), Jeremy Corbyn MP(Leader of the Labour Party; MP for Islington North),Dr Nicholas Cullinan(Director, National Portrait Gallery), Sir Stuart Etherington (Chief Executive, NCVO), Tim Farron MP(Leader of the Liberal Democrats; MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale), George the Poet (Spoken-word artist), Baroness (Dido) Harding (CEO, TalkTalk),  Baroness (Martha) Lane Fox (Portfolio Chair and Entrepreneur), Theresa May MP (Prime Minister; MP for Maidenhead), Dame Carolyn McCall (CEO, easyJet),  David Morrissey (Actor and director), Dr Minouche Shafik (Director Designate, London School of Economics),  Jimmy Wales (Founder, Wikipedia) and more.

Although state school pupils make up 93 per cent of the school-age population, those from privately educated backgrounds dominate leading UK professions such as law, politics, medicine and journalism[1]. Those from less privileged backgrounds face barriers in accessing the work place and a ‘class earnings penalty’, earning on average nearly £7000 less than those from more affluent backgrounds per year[2].

These speakers aim to bring visibility to the charity’s work and encourage their peers to take part through their own support, as well as helping to prepare the next generation by sharing their insights, advice and experiences.

Speakers for Schools has also signalled the forthcoming S4SNextGen programme – a new work experience platform that builds on the charity’s commitment to help bridge the gap by breaking down barriers to networks and organisations. S4SNextGen helps schools and employers target young people without personal networks or access to work experience, opening up placements at leading companies. Work experience is regularly cited as key to broadening work prospects and promoting greater social mobility [3], and 66% of employers think work experience is ‘essential’ when hiring at entry level[4]. However, Ofsted finds work experience in schools relies heavily on the personal networks of teachers and pupils, which often means disadvantaged pupils miss out[5].

Throughout 2017 the charity is looking to offer their online tool to more leading employers and institutions passionate about opening up their workplace to harder-to-reach state schools and young people as an essential step in improving social mobility and increasing industry diversity. The roll out of Speakers for Schools S4SNextGen will begin with ‘digital pilot employers’ in select locations during 2017.

Andrew Law, Chairman and CEO, Caxton Associates and Chairman, Speakers for Schools, said:  

 “The academic achievements in the state school sector continue to improve, equipping the next generation for brighter futures, but we all know there are still major gaps for most young people especially to the top. Through providing networks of access to leading figures and their organisations our charity hopes to help young people bridge these gaps. Whether that’s insights to help to overcome their circumstances, better links to opportunities to realise their ambitions, or increasing their confidence in their own potential and aspirations. We hope more leading figures and their companies will join us all in doing that. ”

Robert Peston, Political Editor, ITV and Founder, Speakers for Schools, said: 

“Today’s generation of state school pupils are as talented as ever. If you have spoken to them, you know there isn’t any lack of ability, but many lack the confidence and connections to help them reach their potential. At Speakers for Schools we are determined to help as many young people as possible achieve their ambitions and their dreams, by helping them tap into the networks that more privileged students take for granted”. 

Over the last five years the charity has organised over 3,400 school talks across the UK, aiming to level the playing field for state educated students by giving them access to inspiring, insightful talks from leading figures free of charge, as often seen in fee-paying schools.

~ Ends ~

[1] Sutton Trust, 2016
[2] ‘State of the Nation 2016: Social mobility in Great Britain’
[3] ‘State of the Nation 2016: Social mobility in Great Britain’
[4] UKCES Employer Skills Survey
[5] Ofsted report, 2015-16


For more information, please contact Eleanor or Lowry Jonathan: or call the team on 020 7403 2230
For more information on how to contribute to the S4SNextGen platform with work experience opportunities, please get in touch with our team at:
Schools and colleges across the UK are benefiting from a school talk, including but not limited to Birmingham, Derbyshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Luton and more.

Speakers in the 2017 Bridging the Gap talk series include:

  •        Dame Helen Alexander, Chairman, UBM plc
  •        Simon Belsham, CEO,
  •        Matt Brittin, President, EMEA Business and Operations, Google
  •        Lord (Karan) Bilimoria, Co-Founder & Chairman, Cobra Beer
  •        Alastair Campbell, Strategist, Author and Mental Health Campaigner
  •        Mark Carney, Governor, Bank of England
  •      Douglas Carswell, MP
  •        The Rt Hon Nick Clegg, MP and Former Deputy Prime Minister
  •        Simon Collins, UK Chairman and Senior Partner, KPMG LLP
  •        The Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, MP and Leader of the Labour Party
  •        Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery
  •        Fiona Dawson, Mars Global Food, President Mars Global Food, Drinks & Multisales
  •        Hugh Dennis, Actor, Comedian and Writer
  •        Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, NCVO
  •        Tim Farron, MP and Leader of the Liberal Democrats
  •        Douglas Flint, Group Chairman, HSBC
  •        David Giampaolo, CEO, Pi Capital Ltd and Trustee, Speakers for Schools
  •        Baroness (Dido) Harding, CEO, TalkTalk
  •        Christine Hodgson, Chairman, Capgemini UK and Chair, Careers and Enterprise Company
  •        Lady Barbara Judge CBE, Chairman, Institute of Directors
  •        Baroness (Martha) Lane Fox, Portfolio Chair and Entrepreneur
  •        Andrew Law, Chairman and CEO, Caxton Associates and Chairman, Speakers for Schools
  •        The Rt Hon Theresa May, Prime Minister
  •        Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO, easyJet
  •        Baroness (Estelle) Morris, Member of the House of Lords
  •        David Morrissey, Actor and Director
  •        Geoff Mulgan, CEO, Nesta
  •        Robert Peston, Political Editor, ITV and Founder, Speakers for Schools
  •        George the Poet, Spoken-word artist
  •        Sir Mike Rake, Chairman, BT Group
  •        Lord (Stuart) Rose, Life Peer and Former Chairman and Marks and Spencer
  •        Roland Rudd, Founder and Chairman, Finsbury and Trustee, Speakers for Schools
  •        Robert Senior, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi and Saatchi
  •        Dr Minouche Shafik, Deputy Governor, Bank of England; Director (designate) of the London School of Economics
  •    Kerry Taylor, CMO Viacom UK & SVP, Youth and Music, Viacom International
  •    Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikipedia
  •    Sir Peter Wall, CEO of Amicus and formerly Head of the British Army
  •    Leanne Wood, Rhondda AM and Leader of Plaid Cymru

About Speakers for Schools:

Throughout the ‘Bridging the Gap’ talk series leading figures will give individual talks in schools and colleges throughout the country.  Speakers for Schools is an independent, apolitical charity that provides young people in state schools across the UK with access to key influential, eminent figures – free of charge. Since 2011, the charity has worked with 1,900 state secondary schools and 1,000 speakers to facilitate over 3,400 school talks across the UK. Speakers in the network range from leading politicians and CEOs of major companies to notable national journalists, arts people, scientists, leading entrepreneurs and academics. All state secondary schools and colleges are eligible to apply. The charity is funded in full by the Law Family Charitable Foundation.

To find out more information about the charity please visit