Anthony Brown
Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers

The Master’s Voice – March 2014

The miserable start to the year in terms of the weather that we have all had to endure has been robustly offset by the inspiring achievements of the schools that the Society supports – their achievements have gone a long way to raise my spirits.

Education is incredibly important to the Merchant Venturers. We believe that it is vital that we give our young people the very best possible start in life. That is why we are so proud of the achievements of the students at the Merchants’ Academy.

Our students achieved what can only be described as exceptional GCSE results in summer 2013, which made the Academy one of the most improved schools in the country. In February Merchants’ Academy was placed in 31st place in a league table published in The Telegraph revealing the top 100 most improved secondary state schools in England.

Of course, there is still a long way to go, but these exam results are certainly a sign that the Academy is heading in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the first students to join Colston’s Girls’ School in Bristol after it became an Academy have achieved some of the best GCSE results in the country. 91 per cent of girls gained five or more passes at A*- C including English and Mathematics – a higher proportion than when it was an independent school with an entrance exam, whilst 58% per cent of passes were at A or A*.

Impressively, the school bucked the national trend with particularly strong results in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, where 74% of passes were at the highest grades (A* and A). This was further supported by outstanding results in Mathematics and English where over two-thirds of students achieved an A* or A grade.

At the end of last year, the Merchant Venturers were delighted to give our support to another group of young people in Bristol achieving spectacular performances on the national stage – the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

We are backing a bold plan to transform rehearsal facilities and access at the Theatre school, which is famous across the world and has helped to train some of our very best actors and actresses over the last seven decades.

As well as guiding the launch of some truly stellar careers the school has helped to put Bristol firmly on the map thanks to its international fame and reputation.

The Theatre School is made up of a number of buildings and it is looking to raise £1.5 million to pay for a new building which will create more space and add some cohesion to the current lay-out.

This is exactly the sort of cause that the Society is proud to support. It fuses our interest in education with our support for initiatives that enhance and improve Bristol’s standing and reputation nationally and internationally. As a result, we are proud to make a donation of £10,000 towards the Theatre School.

In addition to the Old Vic Theatre School, the Merchants’ Charity Committee has undertaken to support scores of further good causes. The Merchants’ significant contribution to charities and good causes in South Bristol is again evident in the recent announcements.A grant of £2,000 is being made to the 2nd Chance project based at the Park in Knowle West. This grant contributes towards the cost of subsidising an Apprenticeship programme, creating employment for young people

An additional £3,000 has been committed to Off the Record, a charity providing support for the mental health and well being of young people in Bristol. The funding will be used to contribute towards outreach activity in a number of areas around the city, including Lawrence Weston and Hartcliffe.

A further £3,000 grant is being made to the Southville Community Development Association, contributing to towards the costs of funding outings and activities.

Amongst many further good causes receiving grants is the Blue Trust (£3,000) towards the cost of extending the support service for fathers affected by post-natal depression. The Lord Taverners (£1,128) towards the costs of the Bristol heat of the National Table Cricket Competition for 2014. Trinity Arts Limited (£2,000) funding to help support the charity through a period of change and development of the building in Old Market used as an arts and community centre.

This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. The Merchants believe that this historic landmark must be marked and the sacrifices made by a generation honoured.

The Merchants are making an award of £5,000 to the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership towards the cost of producing a book chronicling the impact of the Great War on  Bristol.

The Bristol Cultural Development Partnership is planning a year of events to commemorate the outbreak of the conflict and it is important that we support this initiative.

The Society will be contributing towards the production of the book that will provide the focus for this year’s Great Bristol Reading Adventure and fittingly it will be distributed free to schools and local organisations.

As ever our work is always guided by a commitment to contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of Bristol and the surrounding area.

Best wishes,

Anthony Brown

Master, Society of Merchant Venturers