Britain berates itself severely and often for allowing a "long tail" of underachieving youngsters to fall by the wayside of education. Peter Lampl, the Oxford-educated entrepreneur who will match Government funding to help state school pupils benefit from private school facilities, wants to support children at the other end of the achievement spectrum; those who are bright, but, he claims, never get the chance to realise their potential.
Mr Lampl, who intends to give as much or more every year towards projects for high achieving state-educated children, has his own gauge of the way opportunities have narrowed for such pupils since he graduated from Corpus Christi in 1970.
His fellow students at the college, which has a historical link with south Wales, included a regular intake of bright grammar school boys from mining families in the Valleys who moved on after graduation to high profile jobs in the City and in academia.
Almost three decades on, however, after years spent in the United States building his investment business, Mr Lampl paid a return visit to his alma mater to find that Corpus has not had a Welsh student for several years. The reason, he was told, was a lack of applications combined with a feeling that schools in the area did not raise pupils to the standard where the college could accept them.
"When I left [the country] it felt as if things were changing and a lot more people were coming through from average backgrounds," he said yesterday, "yet when I come back it has gone the other way."
The apparent reversal jarred in comparison with the education system across the Atlantic, where Mr Lampl, himself state-educated, observed "a more egalitarian approach ... It struck me there was an enormous waste of talent in the UK."
Eighteen months ago, he set up an educational foundation which launched and funded a 64-place summer school at Oxford University last July for young people from state schools which had previously not sent pupils to the university.
After 40 per cent of those attending applied for places at Oxford, there are now plans to expand the scheme and to extend it to other universities.
Fresh from that success, dreamt up under the last government, Mr Lampl, now based in London, was willing to work with a Labour administration committed to promoting "what works" in education. "I have a similar agenda as the government," he said, "and it makes sense to pursue these initiatives together to break down the barriers between the independent and state sectors".Reuse content