Brilliant Club

The Brilliant Club wins Teach First award

19 Nov 2011

A social enterprise which connects secondary school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with top universities, has won the inaugural Teach First Social Innovation Award and prize money of up to £4,800 to put towards expanding their organisation.

Started in 2011 by budding entrepreneurs and ambassadors from Teach First’s 2008 cohort, Simon Coyle and Jonny Sobczyk, The Brilliant Club recruits and trains outstanding PhD students and places them in challenging schools to deliver programmes of university-style tutorials to small groups of outstanding school students. Through a combination of tutorials, trips and workshops, as well as the completion of an extended essay, their unique programmes develop the skills, confidence and ambition that help these students to secure a place at a top university.

This week Simon and Jonny were also listed as one of the Future 100 Young Social Entrepreneurs of the Year. Organised by Striding Out, a social enterprise which is committed to supporting the development and growth of young and ethical entrepreneurs, The Future 100 aims to showcase businesses that offer innovative and sustainable solutions to social problems.

Charity Teach First works to break the link between low family income and poor educational attainment by placing outstanding graduates to teach in schools in challenging circumstances.
The scale of change needed is so great that Teach First believes it requires a movement of leaders, with a lifelong commitment to raising the achievement, aspirations and access to opportunity of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, to make a difference at a pupil, school and system level.

The Social Innovation Award was established to recognise and support the ground-breaking work of Teach First ambassadors (those who have completed the two-year Leadership Development Programme in the classroom), who have chosen to set up social enterprises as a means of addressing educational disadvantage. The award recognises the most innovative and collaborative social innovation project, with the proven potential to make an impact.

Teach First’s CEO and Founder, Brett Wigdortz, will formally announce the result at the Teach First Annual Conference on Saturday 19th November. UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, has offered the Award Winners £4,800 of funding for the development of The Brilliant Club and on-going non-financial support in the form of mentoring and networking opportunities.

15 Social Enterprises in total entered the online application stage of the competition.

Four projects were then shortlisted and invited to pitch to a panel of judges comprised of representatives of Teach First and the charity’s partners.

The judges were:
– Richard Aung, Chair, Teach First Ambassador Board
– Glenn Earle, Teach First Trustee and Managing Director, Goldman Sachs International
– Jack Graham, Senior Associate, Young Foundation
– Amanda Timberg, Director, Leadership Development, Teach First
– Andrea Soccorso, Executive Director, Venture Partnership Foundation

The judges highlighted The Brilliant Club’s solid performance across all of the judging criteria, their particularly well thought through business plan, their strategy for reaching children from low socio-economic backgrounds and their crystal clear focus on making an impact on raising pupils’ achievement, access to opportunity and aspirations.

So far, The Brilliant Club have worked with 150 pupils from 8 schools. By the end of this academic year, they will have worked with 600 pupils from over 20 schools.

Their pilot project, in which 19 pupils from London Academy worked with Oxford PhD students, produced promising results.

When the participating pupils were asked to rate a series of statements from 1 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strong agree) the survey showed that:
• I found the tutorials valuable for learning – the average score was 9.1
• The Brilliant Club has been a positive experience – the average score was 9.5

The other finalists invited to pitch to the judges were:
• in2scienceuk – places students from disadvantaged backgrounds on one to two-week long placements in laboratories with top research scientists, in order to prepare students for university applications and future employment. It was started by Rebecca McKelvey, an ’05 Ambassador, and currently works in partnership with King’s College London and University College London.

Hackney Pirates – develops the core literacy skills and creative ability of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Hackney. The organisation does this through a one-to-one staff-student ratio, an unconventional learning environment, and the boundless resources of individual volunteers from the creative industries who live in East London. It was started by Catriona Maclay, an ’06 Ambassador as a project within local charity Bootstrap Company.

Spark+Mettle – The “aspirations agency” Spark+Mettle enables young people aged 16-24 from disadvantaged backgrounds to harness their potential to enable them to enter a fulfilling career. Star Track, the organisation’s flagship programme, is a year-long free development opportunity bursting with innovative mentoring and training modules – and breakthrough use of new media. The company with charitable objects was started by Eugenie Teasley, an ’04 Ambassador.

Competition judge and Chair of the Teach First Ambassadors Board, Richard Aung, said:
“A huge congratulations to The Brilliant Club who won this award because of their clear business model, lean delivery model and sound theory of change.

“The judges were inspired by the dedication, passion and effectiveness of all four finalists, and we’re very excited to see the impact they will have on raising the achievement, aspirations and aspirations of the pupils they work with in the coming years.

“Having seen the pitches of all of the finalists, it is clear that their prior experiences in the classroom, and the personal leadership skills they developed as a result, means they have both a deep understanding of how to address educational disadvantage and the ability to lead their enterprises successfully.”

Jonny Sobczyk, Founder and CEO of The Brilliant Club, said:
“We are very humbled to have won the Teach First Social Innovation awards among such excellent competition. The prize money and additional support will make a significant impact to our work, enabling us to recruit, train and place up to six more PhD students who will work with over 100 outstanding students in challenging schools. We have taken a great deal of encouragement from the advice and support the judges gave us and feel increasingly motivated and equipped to achieve our mission.”