In recent weeks I have had many conversations with members about how proud they are, despite lockdown, that the ESU has been able to continue its vital work with young people who need support and encouragement to become confident speakers and debaters. You will all have seen the statistics in the national press about the growing ‘learning gap’, and how disadvantaged students have fallen further behind in the last year. Prior to the pandemic, the ESU was working hard to engage state schools and the poorest students in school oracy sessions – Discover Your Voice, Discover Debating – to teach vital communication skills.
The pandemic has severely affected 90% of the ESU’s income, which relies on a buoyant hospitality market in Mayfair. The ESU’s investment property, the next door Chesterfield Hotel, has not paid full rent, and Dartmouth House has been closed to the commercial activities which normally help to fund the ESU’s educational work. In the light of this, the ESU’s trustees have had some difficult choices to make, but as a charity our first duty is to our beneficiaries – those young people whose schooling and life chances have been so badly affected by lockdown.
For this reason, the first call on the charity’s current limited funds has to be for its educational work. At present we cannot afford to open Dartmouth House on a daily basis for membership use.
I hope that members will understand, and be supportive as we all work hard within the government guidelines to restore our key income streams. Those same members whom I mentioned earlier have also been generous enough to continue with their subscriptions, in direct support of our vital educational work. We keep the situation under review on a daily basis, but for planning purposes I can let you know that Dartmouth House will be closed for daily member access until at least 1 September 2021.
Jane Easton, Director-General