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Staff blog: Reflecting on three years with the Trust’s scholarship team (Gordon Hunt)

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

In my three years at the The Robertson Trust, we have seen a considerable expansion of our support for widening access to education. As I move on to my new role at the Peter Vardy Foundation, we face even more uncertain times, with schools still closed and universities and colleges experiencing radical changes to the way they operate, including significant financial challenges. In that context the work of organisations such as The Robertson Trust and its partners in supporting young people at all stages of the learner journey is more important than ever.

Our flagship education programme remains the Journey to Success, which now supports more than 700 students at any one time who have the talent but not necessarily the means to benefit from a university education. Over the past three years, we have extended our funding partners for this work beyond our partner universities to other trusts and foundations and we are grateful for their backing.
 
With their help, we support our community of Robertson Scholars not only with bursaries, but also with a full programme of career development, which includes workshops, paid internships, mentoring and careers advice. We are continually adding new employer partnerships to our programme and are beginning to work with our growing alumni community to further support our current Scholars, too.
 
More and more we are recognising that success comes from tailored support that gives each Scholar the ability to deal with their unique challenges and to fulfil their own aspirations. It has been a great privilege to be able to provide personal support to some amazing and inspirational young people. Our Scholars, along with all our young people, are the future of Scotland, and with Journey to Success we are helping to build that future one young person at a time.
 
I have also been honoured to be able to extend our contribution to partner organisations that are delivering educational and mentoring advice to young people in schools and colleges. The First Chances Fife programme, delivered by St Andrews University and Fife College in partnership with schools in Fife, now reaches more than 1000 young people every year, with academic skill development from P7 to S6 helping them fulfil their potential.
 
The recent addition of Children’s University Scotland to the partnership will add an exciting new dimension, particularly to the primary school provision. It has been a great thrill to see young people progressing from First Chances onto Journey to Success, as well as others supported by our partners the Social Mobility Foundation and MCR Pathways. MCR’s remarkable success in supporting young people in schools in Glasgow is now being replicated across the country. It has been a privilege to play a small part in that work, too.
 
I am a strong advocate of the key role that Scotland’s Colleges play in our education system. The mentoring projects we support at Forth Valley College and Borders College are not only changing the lives of the young people involved, but also enabling the development of new practice in student support. In the coming months, the Trust will be announcing new projects to enable improvements in support for lone parents in higher education and student mental health provision. I have been particularly pleased to be able to contribute to the work of Stand Alone with estranged students, as they work to raise awareness of their challenges and obtain commitments from universities to provide better support.
 
All of our projects have adapted brilliantly to the challenges of COVID-19 and the need to innovate. As I leave the Trust, I wish to record my thanks to them for the way in which they are helping to build the future. But most of all, I want to pay tribute to the amazing team at the Trust, who with a shared passion for supporting our young people and their communities are making a tangible difference on a daily basis. I know that their work is hugely appreciated by our Scholars, partners and everyone who benefits from our support, and will continue to champion the resilience of the third sector as the Trust builds towards the goals we will set out in our new strategy.
 
I look forward to following their success and working in partnership in my new role delivering leadership skills development for young people across Scotland and beyond.