Big Giver: Sir Peter Lampl, the Sutton Trust

Sir Peter Lampl tells Sylvia Rowley that he likes to fund projects that are scalable

Sir Peter Lampl

The millionaire philanthropist Sir Peter Lampl was not born into wealth.

He grew up on a council estate in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, got a grammar school education and a place at Oxford University, and went on to make his fortune by founding a private equity firm, the Sutton Company, in 1983.

Lampl set up the Sutton Trust in 1997 to give opportunities to "non-privileged" children after returning to the UK and discovering that his old school, Reigate Grammar in Surrey, had become fee-paying.

"Like most of my friends, I couldn't go there today because we couldn't afford the fees," he says.

The trust has given out more than £35m in the past 14 years to improve social mobility through education. This works out at about £2.5m a year and covers two main strands of work: research into social mobility and practical projects to improve access to high-quality schools, universities and early-years education. Grants can be worth up to £7m, drawn largely from Lampl's personal wealth.

He says he is looking for cost-effective interventions that improve social mobility. "I don't just want to do one-off projects" he says. "I like to kickstart things, to fund projects that are scalable."

Early in 2011, the trust was the successful lead bidder for a new £125m government-backed fund to improve the educational attainment of children on free school meals in underperforming schools.

The Education Endowment Foundation is run from the Sutton Trust offices. Lampl says it will give away up to £15m a year over the next 15 years to innovative, scalable projects, topping up the endowment with its own fundraising. It will initially make about 25 grants a year in three application rounds; the most recent closed in January.

Charities can apply to EEF through its website, says Lampl, but the Sutton Trust has no formal application process. He advises interested charities to find a champion. "I don't like being approached cold," he says. "If charities can find an intermediary who is known to me or someone at the trust, then that's more effective."

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