For 10 years I’ve been the owner and managing director of a company called Mayfair Quarters, which organises travel, hotel rates and various other benefits, services and discounts for large corporate clients, mostly from the financial services sector.
Over that time, we’ve helped many clients move premises and observed how items are often left behind, such as furniture that’s an issue for them to get rid of. Outside of the business, I’m also a school governor, so I know how difficult it is in education to find resources for essential items.
Business2schools is a new initiative that enables businesses to donate old or unwanted items to schools, instead of selling or disposing of them. We’ve already had quite a few well-established businesses sign up via our website, including private banks and hedge funds. We recently helped clear a 5,000 sq ft office in New Bond Street belonging to the investment specialist Värde Partners, took the inventory and allocated items to one primary and two secondary schools.
Once a school has registered with us and stated what items they want, we’ll notify the headteacher or business manager via email and let them know when we’ve any relevant inventory – the school only has to accept what it wants. All being well, a business will then give the items to the school for free, though it’s usually down to the school to arrange collection or delivery of the items. That said, we’ve found on occasion that if a company has set aside a destruction budget – as was the case at the aforementioned New Bond Street office – they’ll sometimes be willing to spend this on removal services.
A good proportion of items come from London, but we have schools signed up in Kent, Northampton, Watford and West Sussex and try to link schools with businesses willing to donate items in their locality where we can.
For us, it’s not about replacing items schools already have, but giving them things that are better. In the past, that’s meant large, high quality desks for secondary schools and Okamura Contessa designer desk chairs for primary teachers. Where the scheme’s made a huge difference is in technology – because businesses are typically on a much faster 3-year upgrade cycle compared to the 10-year+ cycle in schools, the latter can benefit from receiving faster computers with much more powerful components and even multiple display monitors (all hard drives are wiped of data before they’re passed on). We’ve seen for ourselves how this can help the children work faster and get them through learning interventions more quickly.
The businesses have really embraced the scheme. Where once they’d be scratching around, knowing they have to clear a building by a certain date ahead of a move, and aware that good quality furniture may end up as landfill, they now have a place to send their old items where they’ll be valued and gratefully received.
Lindsay Parslow is a co-founder of Business2Schools and the managing director of Mayfair Quarters and Mayfair Quarters Travel