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Giving and sharing.The best feelings in the world

Magoo Giles, Founder and Principal, Knightsbridge School, built on the example set by his parents to lay the foundation of his school community’s values.

In over 50 years of marriage, I never heard my wife, Tricia, say anything unkind about

anyone else. Not only that, but she lived her life by her favourite expression, “giving and sharing are the best feelings in the world.” Those words were my father’s tribute at my mother’s funeral and also the foundation

for my code of conduct for the Knightsbridge School community.

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed most commonly by the donation of money to good causes. However, in recent times this has increasingly become through the donation of arguably our most important asset: time.

It is important to remember certain levellers that bring us together: food, sport, music, art, drink, events and the greatest of them all, death. As the son of an army officer who was fortunate to be supported by the military for my education, I have always felt it was important to ensure that the ‘lucky’ children, like me, understand how little time they have available to them, and that an education is not just from the hours of 8am to 4pm. We must remember that all of our time, from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep, is our education and that it is critical to use that time to demonstrate empathy and be purposeful — to deliver the ‘Action’ in one’s armoury.

We live in a fast-paced and overstretched world where ‘what’s in it for me?’ has become the norm. In previous generations, many gravestones would be inscribed ‘He (or she) was noted for their philanthropy’ — a quality greatly admired by others. Our late Queen, arguably one of the greatest role-models, was an advocate of service; a value that summed up the post-war community. In our children’s future this one attribute may be what differentiates them and ‘gets them the gig’: being naturally confident, wholeheartedly well-rounded with an ‘interesting and interested’ story and a history of giving and sharing. Employers will be looking for those who are willing to do more at work, and play, who can galvanise a community, be both gritty and resilient, and have both empathetic, adaptive longevity skills and an individual and team ethic at their core.

From the start, I promoted my own family values as I created my school and led by example. I didn’t have to do it, I chose to do it. After all, why wouldn’t one want one’s workplace, community or family to benefit from having passion and a commitment to go the extra mile? I went about ensuring that Service, Adventure, Extra-Curricular and, most importantly, our Values were centre-stage. Using the rhetoric that I was indoctrinated with by my parents, I created the KS Code which I insisted that the staff, parents and children followed every day, in and out of school.

‘I will remember how lucky I am and that giving and sharing are the best feelings in the world’ was placed at the heart of our education and community.

On top of that, I made it very clear that we follow a set of aims: Atmosphere, Attitude, Autonomy, Achievement, All- roundedness and Action, all supported with a good dose of Authenticity. It is my view that these are far more important together than simply achieving an A in Academics (although obviously a

fantastic achievement). Before putting our philanthropy plans into action, it was vital to have the school’s Parents Association and Staff on board, with a structure in place to enable the fundraising side of the community philanthropy. These impressive, approachable and fabulous parents excel at teamwork and each year, we learn and grow together.

From the start, Knightsbridge School linked with the Royal Hospital Chelsea as the main school charity in order to be able to demonstrate the value of service. Children have sport at the Royal Hospital’s Burton Court, deliver handmade Christmas cards, play matches against Chelsea Pensioners and host visits from Pensioners for Remembrance Day, assemblies and other important events. Last year, we realised another dream by setting up a Royal Hospital Cadet force which our children and many other local children now enjoy together.

The second charity that Knightsbridge School partnered with was the children’s mental health organisation, Place2Be, which was introduced into the school after a meeting with its founder, Dame Benny Refson. Knightsbridge School became the first independent day school to have Place2Be which was integrated from the bottom- up with early intervention at its core. This gave children, staff and parents access to
a counselling programme within school — a crucial development. Importantly, we also talked and listened to the inspirational Head of Ashburnham Community Primary School, Mrs Kate Webster, about her children’s mental health needs and installing Place2Be into her school, while also organising an exciting, life-changing fundraising event for Place2Be at Buckingham Palace alongside the Princess of Wales shortly before the pandemic.

The formation in 2008 of the Knightsbridge School Education Foundation (KSEF) was another game-changer. It allowed our seniors to rub shoulders with intelligent local children with a hunger for learning. I am so proud of the 28, 100% bursaries which we have supported for students aged between 11–18

years thanks to parents, staff and directors of Knightsbridge School and, more recently, Dukes Education.

We are also inundated with requests for funding from organisations in our local borough and I am delighted that over the years, we have been able to support so many: The Kensington and Chelsea Foundation, The Royal Parks (funding for the Diana Memorial and the Environmental Centre in Hyde Park, Flowers) and supported the Knightsbridge Fire Brigade. We support the Restart Lives homelessness campaign (Seniors lay up for the ‘guests’ weekly and hold a fundraising Sleep Out annually) and our caterers, Thomas Franks, provide meals each month thanks to our brilliant chefs Alan and Khanh. Other support goes to the Borough of Kensington & Chelsea with courses, initiatives and appeals, local Churches: St Paul’s Knightsbridge (Foundation & Harvest), St Columba’s Church (Remembrance and Carol services, breaks and shows) and St Saviours Church (performing arts and performances).

In addition, we have links with local schools through shared resources, clubs and activities as well as Mental Health support, and local businesses who have supported our philanthropy work. The KS extracurricular programme boasts 70+ different clubs and activities and our children, staff and parents are all part of this dynamic and exciting community.

While the reach of Knightsbridge School’s support has been extensive, in recent years, we have listened to
the voice of our own pupils and narrowed our focus to a smaller number of charities in order to create deeper engagement that leaves a mark of pride in those who can actually see the change that their time or money makes. To date, these are Teenage Cancer Trust, Guide Dogs UK and the Marine Conservation Society. I am indeed proud that there is a guide dog out there named Magoo by the KS children.

Having run a Saturday football club for 27 years which pulls the community together, I hope I am living up to my mother’s expression, “Giving and sharing are the best feelings in the world”.

RIP Mum.

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