The Merchant Venturers Blog: First Quarter 2015

The first three months of 2015 have again been a period of high activity for the Merchant Venturers.

In education the project has kicked off to create Bristol Autism Free School. The Department for Education gave approval for this in March. The school will open in South Bristol in September 2016. It will eventually have 84 students on the autistic spectrum aged from 4 to 16.

We have also announced that application will be made in May to the Department for Education for the establishment of a new Sixth Form Centre for some 600 students in central Bristol, in a joint project between Colston’s Girls’ School and Bristol Cathedral Choir School.

In our care of the elderly activity we have submitted a planning application for a new dementia unit to be built beside Katherine House, the residential home for the elderly which the Society manages on the Downs at Bristol. At the St Monica’s Trust we have welcomed David Williams as the new Director of St Monica’s, in succession to Gerald Lee, who has retired after 15 years in the role. During this time St Monica’s has changed out of all recognition, reflected in the fact that at the start of his tenure St Monica’s had 140 residents and now it has c. 1,000 plus c. 500 elderly people to whom St Monica’s provides outreach support in their own homes.


These past 3 months have also seen the start of our programme to encourage the development of employability skills in our Merchant schools. There is much critical comment from across the business world that students coming out of schools and universities into employment lack the behaviours, attitudes and characters which make them fit for employment. The Society and our Merchant schools have together embarked on a £250,000 programme over 3 years to embed the development of appropriate skills and attitudes into all our students, in part through much closer engagement with employers. Our ambition is for all students from our Merchant schools to be distinctive for the quality of their employability skills.


The Society has a charitable fund, the income of which is applied to charitable organisations in the Greater Bristol region, in the main charities which are locally based. Causes which we have supported in the past 3 months include a project working with children who have been sexually exploited, a respite service which enables carers to have a break from their responsibilities, a dance group which works in schools, particularly with children on the autistic spectrum, a contribution towards the cost of restoring a flight of Victorian stone steps in the Avon Gorge, a charity which works both locally and nationally in the massive worldwide problem of modern slavery, and support for one of Bristol’s city farms.