La Zagaleta resident, Rod Aldridge, is both a business and social entrepreneur with over 40 years’ experience of working in the public and private sectors in the UK. He was the Founder of the Capita Group and led the company from its start-up in 1984 to becoming the market leading provider of outsourced back of office, white-collar support and professional services to the government and to the private sector in the UK. In 1987 he led the Management Buy Out of the group from a professional accountancy institute (CIPFA), resulting in the formation of CAPITA. The Company subsequently floated on the UK Stock Exchange’s Unlisted Securities Market in 1989 with a valuation of £8 million. Today the Capita Group is a member of the UK Stock Exchange’s FTSE 100, employs 55,000 people and interacts with 33 million people through the services it delivers. It now has a market capitalization of over £5 billion and is one of the best performing shares ever in the FTSE.
In July 2006, Sir Rod retired as Executive Chairman of Capita to establish the Aldridge Foundation to focus on his charitable activities involving educational underachievement and social exclusion of young people. He also is the Chairman of the Lowry, the award winning arts and entertainment venue in Salford, near Manchester which is the home of the L.S Lowry painting collection.
He was awarded a knighthood in the Queen ’s 2011 New Year Honours list on New Year’s Eve, in recognition of his services to young people in his capacity as Chairman of The Aldridge Foundation and for the other work that he has undertaken in this field including being a Patron and a former Trustee of the Princes Trust , the charity established by HRH Prince of Wales.
In this interview, Sir Rod and Lady Aldridge open their home to our readers to give an in-depth look into their days of leisure, and of course, give us an overview of their most precious work at the Aldridge Foundation.
1. What is the Aldridge Foundation and how would you describe your personal commitment to this cause?
The Aldridge Foundation is an independent educational charity I founded in 2006. Our vision is of a society where young people, irrespective of their background, have the essential skills and entrepreneurial qualities they need to take control of their own lives and contribute to the communities where they live. We largely achieve our aims through the sponsorship of centres of learning, mainly academies and colleges, in areas of long term deprivation and underachievement.
I have always believed that everyone should have access to a good education since it gives people confidence to try things, skills to have a fulfilling life and options around what they ultimately choose to do. Sadly in the UK today many young people are not in that position but through the Foundation’s work we are demonstrating that this can be changed. My feeling is that it is not about where you came from but more about where you want to get to and no artificial barriers should be placed in your way to achieving this. Many of our 7,000 students come from a background where there have been three generations of unemployment and a culture of dependency on social benefits from the state. This low aspiration coupled with a poor education in poor facilities leads to a spiral of social decline in many communities.
Through our work we have raised educational standards, have built world class learning and sporting facilities along with driving up standards in the teaching received. Students now have a real option to stay on to further their education at 16 and have routes into university along with developing skills for life which make them more employable and have a more fulfilling life.
The Foundation sponsors five Academies. These are in Darwen in North West of England and two in Brighton in Sussex including the school that I went to as a boy! Another is on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, the home of the Olympic sailing where we are responsible for a children’s education from nursery age to when they are 18. The fifth is a brand new Kensington Aldridge Academy opening in North Kensington in 2014. The Foundation is also a lead partner in a University Technical Colleges for MediaCityUK in Salford specializing in digital and performing arts and another in Newhaven in Sussex offering marine and engineering as a specialism.
2. What make the Foundation Academies special and how do they impulse and motivate younger generations to achieve their potential? Are there any particular cases that stand out that serve as a barometer of success?
The Foundation sponsors non-selective academies in areas of long-term deprivation, underinvestment or underachievement. Our academies have a focus on entrepreneurship, and we focus on promoting the attributes of an entrepreneur of determination, understanding of risk taking, passion, team working and creativity. We want our academies to give students opportunities they would otherwise not have had.
A great example of what can be achieved is our first academy, in Darwen (Lancashire). At the official opening in 2011 by HRH Prince William and the then Kate Middleton, the Prince praised the “wonderful, innovative, ground-breaking” academy and stated “I am convinced the academy will transform the lives of families in Darwen and, through its example, countless others elsewhere.”
I believe we have lived up to his words, replacing a previously troubled school with an Academy that has seen an incredible improvement in examination results from just 22% getting 5 A-C Grades in GCSE including English and Maths to over 60% enabling them to either go on to further education or to leave with the confidence that they have more employable skills. Many, however, go onto sixth form which before the Foundation became responsible for the Academy did not exist. We are now seeing over 75% moving on to university– in many cases the first person in their family ever to do so and this year, I am very proud of the fact that two of our students have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
3. Why is entrepreneurship and innovation such a core part of the curriculum; in other words, how are these values essential for long-term success?
My life has been shaped by my ability to take the right kind of risks and be confident in doing so. I wasn’t frightened of failure when I started out, or reluctant to think differently. In my view, resilience, team work and creativity are the marks of the genuine entrepreneur. These attributes have helped me every day of my working life. It doesn’t matter if you want to set up a company, become a civil servant or work in the City– an entrepreneurial mindset is a major asset, and I think that every young person can benefit from developing this mindset as they grow up.
In our schools, entrepreneurship describes a state of mind which strives to solve problems rather than accept defeat. Most importantly, not to accept the life style they have but to have the confidence and belief to change things for the better. It provides context for the learning of core subjects, particularly numeracy and literacy. It feeds into all lessons, enrichment activities such as after school clubs, rewards systems and our work with the broader community.
The aim of each academy is to provide the highest quality of education encouraging students, staff and members of the local community to develop a passion for learning as well as an entrepreneurial mindset.
4. More than six years dedicating your time exclusively to the public service sector, what would you say are the major differences between managing a FTSE 100 company and a philanthropic-based organization?
In many ways I miss the buzz of corporate life and indeed I am still involved with business through being on the Board of two companies owned by Private Equity firms. It was very difficult leaving Capita after 22 years of being at the centre driving the growth of the company and seeing it grow so successfully. However, the last 6 years with my Foundation have been incredible and richly rewarding in other ways. What I am doing now involves real lives and is making a real difference. During this time we have been at the forefront of a building programme involving more than £160m of investment going into the creation of learning centres that will service these communities for many generations. I have seen the impact that our work has had on improving life chances for so many of our students and it will be they that will ultimately lead the regeneration that is needed so badly needed. I feel there are no barriers, other than the hours in the day, to what we can achieve together since we are setting the agenda and the parameters of what is possible. I am therefore no longer accountable to the City and to shareholders but to the students, teachers, parents and the communities that we work in all of whom want us to succeed. Ironically, however, without the success of my business career with Capita none of this for me would have been possible.
5. How often are you and your family at La Zagaleta? Why did you decide upon a vacation home here?
Our home in Spain is very important to us and we come on a regular basis throughout the year spending a great deal of the summer months here when we are joined by the children, grandchildren and our friends. We were attracted to Spain because of the ease of travel from London and the climate. When we began to look for a home here in 2005, we were shown a number of properties but nothing compared to the wonderful setting ofLa Zagaleta and its incredible views. We felt to have a combination of access to a “community style” environment but with the privacy one seeks, with beautiful golf courses and the benefits of a Club on your doorstep could not be rivaled. We consider it to be one of the best decisions we have ever made and have already had a number of wonderful celebrations at the house, providing us with many happy memories.