THE new chair of education charity SHINE, Raksha Pattni, has set out her vision to bring people, places, and ideas together to achieve a lasting impact on educational attainment in the North.
SHINE’s focus on teachers and incubating their ideas is what sets the charity apart, she said.
SHINE is a North of England-based education charity that supports teachers and schools to improve outcomes for the region’s most disadvantaged children.
Under her leadership, Raksha wants SHINE to scale up its most successful projects, taking the best ideas with evidence-based impact and replicating them across the North.
She hopes to inspire other funders and form collaborations with like-minded partners while maintaining a long-term strategy with sustainability and evidence of what works at its heart.
The new chair also wants SHINE to shape its own definition of “place” and support communities in the areas of greatest disadvantage.
Raksha, who lives in Lancashire, has served as a trustee of SHINE for five years and is also the National Partnerships Director at the Ambition Institute, a national education charity.
Raksha replaces Cameron Ogden at the helm of SHINE’s Board of Trustees.
“I feel honoured, humbled, and privileged to be given this opportunity to lead an organisation, which has so much talent, commitment and profile across the North, to make a lasting impact,” said Raksha.
She added: “It’s a big responsibility, which I won’t be taking lightly, but it is also an excellent opportunity to make a difference in an issue that I feel so strongly about.
“I am very passionate about social mobility and how we can draw upon the untapped talent, diversity and life experiences that young people represent, irrespective of their background. And I believe one of the key drivers for social mobility is education. Children achieving their full potential is key for us to achieve that social mobility. For me, this is where SHINE has a key role to play. And that’s where my personal values, and what we’re going to be doing at SHINE, come together.”
Raksha said the challenges facing education before COVID have been exacerbated by the pandemic, presenting new challenges for the charity.
“I joined SHINE in March 2018 and for a large part of the time since then, we were in the midst of a pandemic. We had only just developed our strategy up to 2025 when the pandemic hit in 2020. And in some ways, we had to adapt the strategy to focus on our current projects, making sure that they had all the support they needed.
“Despite this, between 2020 and 2022, almost 100 SHINE projects supported more than 70,000 children in classrooms and online. I am proud of what these projects have achieved to date but know there is much more still to do.
“The issues that we’re grappling with around educational attainment have been worsened by the pandemic. Government data shows that the attainment gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their better-off peers has widened to its largest level in 10 years, indicating that Covid has had a greater impact on disadvantaged children.
“Post-pandemic, what’s our role? What can we do more? What have we learned about what works, since operating in the North from 2017, that we can now start to really scale up?
“There is a multitude of issues facing education. There’s the cost of living, there’s the post-pandemic recovery, and there’s the ongoing teacher recruitment/retainment challenge. And in all of this, I feel proud that SHINE is focused on teachers and backs what they are doing because they know best – they’re on the frontline.
“At SHINE, we work with some amazing and very talented teachers – the likes of Fiona McKinnon, in Hull, who is helping early years children to find their voice, Lucy Huelin, from York, and her brilliant Vocabulous website, and Maddy Barnes and Lisa Bradshaw, on Merseyside, who are making exciting progress with their new reading programme.
“What we need to consider next is how best we support teachers such as these by incubating their ideas and best practice and helping them to scale.
“I feel really good that we’re not going there doing things to schools and teachers, but actually working with them to bring about change from the bottom up. The next step for SHINE is to really scale up those ideas to achieve the greatest impact. To find those one or two great ideas where we have the evidence and the impact of what works, and galvanise that, replicate those ideas, and scale them up across multiple geographies or across the whole of the North.”
Raksha said she is proud that SHINE is both based in the North of England and focused on the North.
She added that what makes SHINE special “is our role as an early-stage adopter of promising new ideas. We really support teachers to incubate their ideas. That is very rare. I don’t see that anywhere else.
“Also, if I look at the trustees that we have, the staff team that we have, the places where we work, and the type and breadth of projects that we support. I feel those elements make us really special.”
Raksha paid a glowing tribute to her predecessor, who was chair for eight years.
“It has been a tremendous commitment on Cameron’s behalf to oversee SHINE’s move from London to the North, to really support Fiona and the team to scale up because, at the time of the move, we were a very small team. The team doubled in size, and we had to really stabilise ourselves.
“Under Cameron’s leadership, we have also recruited more trustees – me included – so he really helped to really put all of those foundations in place when we moved up North.
“Since I have been working with him more closely in the handover, I’ve come to realise just how much work is involved, and how much he was doing in a very unassuming manner. So, I have huge respect for Cameron, for the role he has played in giving SHINE such a strong start across the North and setting us up for success.”
Raksha was born and brought up in Tanzania, and she says her upbringing played an important role in what drives her today.
“Education is a real passion for me and has always been, because of the way that I was brought up, back in Tanzania. Those issues around poverty, attainment, and social mobility, I also experienced in Tanzania. And, although I’m now in a different continent, and these issues are playing out differently, they exist here, as well. So, to me, it’s, what can I do as an individual to have an impact on that?”
Moving forward, Raksha is relishing helping SHINE build new partnerships.
“I’ll be really keen to look at how strategically SHINE can be positioned as a must-have partner for other organisations – whether that’s private, voluntary, or government – because I believe that no organisation can address or tackle the issues that we are facing in education alone, there are so many issues that are outside the school gates, but affect what happens in the classrooms.
“Whilst SHINE can’t tackle all of that on our own, there is a role for us to play to work with those who can. And it’s going to be important to really understand our own strengths, what are we really good at and continue to sharpen that.
“I also want a good long-term strategy, that is evidence-based, with data at its heart. So, when we are talking to our philanthropic partners, we can really speak with conviction of the impact that we are making and continue to make.”
“When my time as Chair comes to an end, I would like to be able to look back, and see that we have not missed any opportunity and really used our experience, insight, knowledge and expertise, to develop those new ideas that really work. That we have taken up what we learned there and scaled up two or three projects that are now operating everywhere across the North. And as a result of that, we’ve made a real impact.
SHINE recently took part in an independent Grantee Perception Survey, which rated the charity highly in many areas. Grantees found the charity to be approachable and responsive and felt that it exhibited compassion towards the people it hopes to serve. Overall, SHINE’s grantees scored the charity highly on how it responds to their ideas through its strategy, placing it in the top 5 per cent of comparable charities.
“That’s so great for us to hear that, we are really well regarded, and the role that we are playing in assisting teachers,” said Raksha. “The responses to this survey will form the stepping stones for us to build the next phase of SHINE in the North.”
Raksha is the National Partnerships Director at the Ambition Institute, a national education charity dedicated to transforming the lives of children in disadvantaged areas by raising the standard of leadership and teaching across the school system in England. She was previously Head of Race and Equality at Preston City Council and later joined Business in the Community (BITC), where she led significant regeneration programmes and pioneered BITC’s flagship education programme, “Business Class”, which framed business engagement in 545 secondary schools across the UK for nearly a decade. Raksha says the programme completely transformed the way business engaged with schools to raise attainment and pupil aspirations. The evidence based model was based around three-year, business-school strategic collaboration and targeted at secondary schools in areas of high deprivation.