In June Bolton School was very proud to be named as one of this year’s recipients of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services (QAVS)– an honour regraded as the ‘MBE for organisations’. The award was inaugurated to mark the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation in 2002 and we believe we are the first school to be recognised in this way, with the unique feature that the service given throughout the years is from so many different young people, all of which will have felt something of the importance of voluntary work as they pass through the school. Every year the pupils at school clock up well over 10,000 hours of voluntary work in local schools, care homes, hospices and much else besides.

We have two great advantages in making this aspect of school life prominent.

The first is that is a long standing aspect of the ethos of the school, literally centuries old. That is why it is simply wrong and unfair when politicians sometimes argue that we only help because we have been forced to during discussions about charitable status. We were founded more than 500 years ago by a charitable gift and refounded just over a century ago by one of the great Victorian philanthropists Lord Leverhulme.

The second is that we work in Bolton where the volunteering instinct is strong – in being awarded QAVS we join the Lads and Girls Club, the mountain rescue and Urban Outreach and others besides in our local area. We are not alone in doing our bit for the local community of Bolton.

One thing the pupils learn whilst volunteering is that it is not possible to do good to people. You must do good with them. Working with the community you seek to serve, working out needs and increasing capacity within that community are all important lessons the pupils learn. Random acts of kindness may have a place but they do not produce sustained and useful voluntary engagement to make a real difference for good. This was also a lesson Lord Leverhulme experienced, contrasting the great success of Port Sunlight, with the rejection of his investment in Bolton of the grand town boulevard. It is also, at last, a lesson learned by politicians who champion school partnerships. These too cannot be forced or imagined, they must be nurtured and fulfil a real need.

And so as term begins a new generation of pupils step up to match the aspirations of the school prayer where ‘much is expected of those to whom much is given’ and the school aim to ‘be prepared to go out into the world to make a difference for good’


About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is Headmaster of Bolton School Boys’ Division. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists.