On a freezing cold Sunday morning in the depths of winter Rob Sargent, Chairman of the Acorn Group, stood on the side-lines of a muddy football pitch in Lewisham cheering on his youngest son. Whilst their toes slowly numbed, fellow supporters chatted between themselves, hopping up and down to keep circulation going.
Rob got talking to Jo Chandler, Chair of Governors at St. Saviour’s, a primary school in Lewisham, and their conversation turned to schooling. Jo mentioned how she had recently set up a Governor’s fundraising committee with the remit to raise much-needed funds to redevelop under-utilised spaces within the school; areas that would make a real difference to the children’s learning and school life but due to underfunding are not a possibility within their current budget.Rob listened with interest to hear how the school had met the education challenge head on and was currently one of the top-performing primary schools in Lewisham.
At their last Ofsted inspection, the recommendations for next steps were focused on developing the Year 6 reading and monitoring the reading of all children throughout the school. Jo explained how hard this was, as the school currently has no real library facility and limited space to spend time in small focus groups. When Rob asked to visit the school, Jo was a little taken aback but was delighted to arrange to show him around the premises. During his visit, Rob was incredibly impressed with how every child he interacted with was polite, happy, confident, and genuinely looked like they were having fun.
With additional intervention space, to enable the teachers to take on Ofsted’s prescribed ‘next steps’. A large uninspiring room in the upper floor of the school was converted into a bright and vibrant space to spark the pupils passion for reading.
In order to fill the library, a campaign was launched calling for donations of pre-loved children’s books and over 2,500 books were dropped into Acorn’s local estate agency offices. You can read the full story of St Saviour’s library refurbishment here, but the rest as they say is history.
Following the huge success of this project, the initiative evolved into the “ABC Book Club” and was officially registered as a charity in 2019. We have since donated thousands of books to hundreds of schools and organisations throughout South East London and North Kent. We’ve continued to build libraries in schools where children can read for pleasure and we work collaboratively with Senior Leaderships teams, Parent Teacher Associations, Governors, Councils and the pupils to provide spaces that are fun, immersive and spark a love of reading.
To complete the circle, Jo Chandler, the Chair of Governors at St Saviour’s where the idea was born, joined ABC in 2021 to run the charity and ensure it continues to go from strength to strength. Jo says “it’s my absolute privilege to run ABC Book Club, I know first hand the difference the charity has made and I couldn’t be prouder of the work we do in the local community to inspire reading amongst young children”