Social investment providing accessible education for all

Social investment providing accessible education for all

With education being disrupted across the country, Apricot Learning Online supports students with special education needs to receive high quality education experiences in ways that are tailored uniquely to them online. With a £150,000 investment from the Health and Wellbeing Challenge Fund (South West) (HWCFSW), Apricot Learning Online can grow the teaching team and reach students on a national basis.

For over 10 years Apricot Learning Online (Apricot) has developed a curriculum and teaching staff to deliver the broadest, most flexible, and tailored online school in the UK. They have working partnerships with a number of schools, Las, Councils, PRUs, and hospital outreach services. Apricot reaches students who are Children in Care, SEND, SEMH, and medical and mental health needs (including Autism, Asperge’s, selective mutism, high anxiety, OCD).

Based in Gloucestershire but serving the needs of students across the country through the online only mode, Apricot has cultivated a talented teaching staff who are experienced, qualified teachers that have adopted new delivery skills for the unique setting of the delivery and unique needs of the children.

Last year it supported more than 200 students along with their families and carers to improve engagement and support the whole child, beyond simply the education outcomes. The secret sauce of the online approach is that each class can be modified to align with the pace and learning process that suits each student best.

Resonance was keen to help Apricot with their next steps and the onset of the pandemic made the investment even more crucial. COVID-19 has disrupted the education of so many across the country and will continue to do so for many months and years to come. Amy Smith, CEO of Apricot said, “We are seeing increased demand for support from students who have struggled during the lock downs over the last year and from a growing number of families who have elected to home school their children ongoing. That’s why it is important to take on more staff and train them. Investment was essential to doing this.”

Tom Crook, Resonance Senior Investment Manager for the Fund, describes some of the challenges of completing a deal during a pandemic: “By increasing its resources, enhancing the facility and expanding the team, Apricot Online will be better positioned to support a larger number of the students on a national basis. This investment will positively impact the lives of many. Education is a fundamental human right, and the life chances of every child can be improved significantly through the receipt of a quality education.

“We discovered that It is possible to complete a deal virtually and still connect well with the entrepreneurs. Due to COVID-19, I didn’t have a single face-to-face meeting with the people at Apricot, but instead conducted all meetings by video conferencing. The lived experience of the directors certainly added to the authenticity of the organization and makes their story even more compelling.”

The Health & Wellbeing Challenge Fund is an impact investment fund created with investment from the Growth Fund and South West Academic Health Science Network (SWAHSN). The Growth Fund is managed by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital. The Fund aims to make social impact investment more accessible and relevant to smaller social enterprises looking to expand their operations and impact in the South West linked to the broad theme of Health & Wellbeing.