Sharp-Suited Brokers Trade Time in the City to Be Role Models for East End Children ; A Team of Foreign Exchange Traders Are the Latest Volunteers to Join Our Literacy Campaign. David Cohen Finds out How They Are Helping Pupils at a Struggling Primary schoolGET LONDON READING Evening Standard Campaign
Cohen, David, The Evening Standard (London, England)
EVERY Tuesday at precisely 11.10am, Stewart Blake and his team of foreign exchange brokers leave their testosterone-fuelled dealing room in the heart of the City and jump in a cab that whisks them across town to the estates of Hackney. Twenty minutes later, they can be found hunkering down on little chairs with seven-yearolds and poring patiently over books about dancing dogs and flying fish.
Dressed in their sharp Savile Row suits, these eight forex brokers from Global Reach Partners are the newest volunteer recruits to our Get London Reading campaign. They cut a stark contrast to the deprivation that surrounds this well-run little school in Dalston, St Jude and St Paul's C of E primary school, where 27 languages are spoken and where over half the children are on free school meals.
Headteacher Marjorie Wood, 57, said: "When Stewart and his team started just after Easter, I deliberately asked them to come in their suits. Many of our pupils have challenging situations at home and lack positive male role models. The impact of the volunteers has been superb with many of the children they help catching up with their peers after just one term, but just as invaluable is the one- to-one time with an adult who is listening to them, having fun, and setting boundaries." Yesterday we reported how our 25 reading volunteers at St Mary's had helped the Battersea primary school achieve phenomenal Sats English and maths results, up from 52 per cent to 91 per cent, but the story of the City forex dealers who read with sevenyear-olds is a reminder of the valiant work being done by our hundreds of other mentors reading with 1,300 children across London.
Launched just over a year ago in partnership with the literacy charity Volunteer Reading Help, Get London Reading has so far raised Pounds 443,770 and led to the placement of 447 volunteers in 266 primary schools. A preliminary formal evaluation of the impact our volunteers have made reveals that the average progress for children has gone from a paltry 0.1 sub-levels a year (almost zero progress in the year before they got a volunteer) to an improvement of 1.4 sub-levels over two terms. This puts them on course to achieve the national target of 2 sub-levels progress a year.
Sue Porto, chief executive of VRH, said: "In October 2011, we launched a new evaluation system which gathers data from primary schools on the impact of our service. Schools have input data for 1,880 children. We are still at an early stage of assessing our impact, but the results so far are extremely encouraging."
At Global Reach Partners, a private firm with Pounds 1.8 billion turnover, CEO Stewart Blake has ordered that any business meetings that conflict with brokers' reading time at St Jude and St Paul's are to be rescheduled. "Reading must come first," he said. "We can't raise these children's hopes only to let them down."
Senior dealer Daniel Harden, 29, who initiated the firm putting Pounds 8,000 into Get London Reading and asking their staff to become reading mentors, said: "The perception of brokers is that all we care about is money and we wanted to challenge that perception. …