Helsington Foundation
Creating Opportunities for Disadvantaged Young Talent

Welcome to the Helsington Foundation
"Creating Opportunities for Disadvantaged Young Talent”

The Helsington Foundation was established in 2008 to enable high-performing sixteen and seventeen year old children from state schools and colleges, to experience higher education at its best. Founded by philanthropist and Oxford Alumnus, Graham Sharp, Helsington exists to give youngsters the opportunity to experience lectures and college accommodation with other summer school pupils and student mentors, at pre-eminent places of learning such as Oxford University.

Originally conceived to supplement the existing Sutton Trust programme to boost summer school placement at Oxford, the Helsington Foundation has proved so successful that the model is being applied to other British universities with the intention of more than doubling opportunities for qualifying pupils. The goal of broadening access to places of higher learning for pupils who might not otherwise aspire to such an experience, has proved very successful.

Helsington has awarded Oxford University £3.25 million for the six year period starting 2009, to fund the summer schools. The Foundation has also given money to fund the work the University is undertaking with teachers including regional teachers’ conferences and work with Oxford PGCE students and new graduates who are about to take part in the Teach First programme. Oxford University has been increasing the work it does with teachers and guidance advisors as they are one of the most important influences on a student’s decisions about higher education and deal with a large number of students each year.

Graham Sharp has gone on record to say he hopes Helsington will continue to encourage more young people to aspire to a university education: 'I want to help with initiatives that reach out to those pupils who have ability and aspirations but aren’t able to fulfil those aspirations.'

At the announcement of the initiative in 2009, Professor Ewan McKendrick, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education at the University of Oxford, endorsed the plan saying: ‘Oxford wants to continue to attract the best students and an important part of our fundraising is about making sure that we equip talented students to apply and that they are supported when they get here. I’m delighted that, thanks to this generous donation (from the Helsington Foundation), we are able to offer more students the chance to attend a summer school at the University.’

In January 2013, the Helsington Foundation announced a further educational initiative conceived to dramatically increase engineering graduates.


Oxford University Summer Schools

Elite Engineering Programme

Photo: © Mercedes AMG Petronas.


The Elite Engineering Programme

An entirely new private sector initiative to boost British engineering and funded principally by the Helsington Foundation, was launched in January 2013. The Elite Engineering Programme (EEP) has been launched in conjunction with LEGO Education UK & Ireland, and programme manager Kate Bellingham in partnership with the the Royal Academy of Engineering. The EEP aims to boost the number of talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider pursuing careers in engineering.  It is hoped the initiative will reignite the UK’s status as a world leader in engineering. 

The EEP will reach out to young people in state schools from the age of 10 by establishing the profession as a credible career path from school right through to university and even into internships.  The EEP is the first engineering educational programme to take young people on that journey.

The Programme has been created in response to research published last year by the Royal Academy of Engineering:  “Jobs and Growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy” which found that the UK needs to increase (by around 50% per year) the number of science, technology, engineering and maths graduates.

Graham Sharp, the founder of both the Racing Steps and the Helsington Foundations explained why they have been a driving force behind the programme, “We founded both The Racing Steps and Helsington Foundations to help young, less advantaged people fulfil their potential.  We’re delighted now to extend our support to young, aspiring engineers through the Elite Engineering Programme. We hope other businesses will join us.”

British entrepreneur Professor Anthony Purnell, who is a professor of Engineering and also a part of the EEP founding partnership, explained; “I’m concerned that our brightest young people could be put off a career in engineering by the cost of university education.   That would have tragic consequences for British engineering.   We have created the Elite Engineering Programme specifically to stop that happening.”

As part of the programme, LEGO Education will provide schools with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education sets and lesson plans designed to complement the curriculum.

Matt Parkes, of LEGO Education commented; “We’re keen to ensure that students from less privileged social backgrounds have a chance to find out whether engineering is the right career choice for them and LEGO Education resources have proven to be a fun and effective way of doing this.”


The Elite Engineering Programme

The Elite Engineering Programme


The key people behind the Helsington Foundation

Graham Sharp
Graham Sharp has worked for 30 years in the commodities industry. He is currently the Chairman of Puma Energy Group and a Senior Advisor to the Oliver Wyman Group. Graham is the founder of both the Helsington and Racing Steps Foundations.

The latter is a unique initiative that funds and mentors exceptionally talented young British riders and drivers who have ambitions to achieve professional status in motor sport but who lack the funds to progress up the sport ladder, potentially to the top.

Derek Walters    
Derek has a management and marketing background honed over 23 years working at Pirelli where he filled a variety of management roles including that for motor sport programme management, based in the UK, Milan and the USA. Derek founded Worldsport Management after leaving Pirelli which became involved in a number of international sports. Derek helped Graham Sharp formulate the Racing Steps Foundation in 2007, which in turn appointed Worldsport Management to advise on the Foundation’s operations.

Elite Engineering Programme
Lego Education
The Royal Academy of Engineering



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