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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

This event took place on Tuesday 14 March. You can watch the recording below.

In this Nesta talks to... Luke Bramhall, Assistant Director of Operations at Children North East, sat down with Nesta’s Fionnuala O’Reilly to explore how we can “poverty proof” our schools, making them a fairer, healthier environment for all children.

The poverty-proofing model centres on the voice and perspective of the child. Eight years ago, Children North East distributed disposable cameras to 1,000 children, asking them to capture what poverty meant to them. The results were revealing, highlighting that the school environment was where children most felt the impact of poverty. Issues raised included stigma related to free school meals and the inability to participate in extracurricular activities due to a lack of the necessary resources. It’s clear, Luke emphasised, that we need to view the problem through the eyes of a child living in poverty.

The impact of this initiative on schools has been substantial. Children North East has partnered with over 350 schools, engaging with over 200,000 children and working alongside 500 delivery partners and early results from this are promising. Attendance rates in poverty-proofed schools have increased by up to 6%, teachers report improved student engagement in lessons and there has been an uptick in the utilisation of free school meals.

Looking ahead, Luke and Fionnuala discussed Children North East's plans to extend its model to various organisations that can influence the broader community, such as arts and health groups, and explore how their extensive evidence can shape educational policies across the UK.

Through engaging conversations and collaboration with schools, Children North East has made significant strides in improving the experiences of disadvantaged students, highlighting the critical impact of poverty within school environments.

The opinions expressed in this event recording are those of the speaker. For more information, view our full statement on external contributors.


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Luke Bramhall


Luke Bramhall is Assistant Director of Operations at charity Children North East. Luke leads the development of the Poverty Proofing model, growing it into a nation-wide intervention that has interviewed hundreds of thousands of people on their experiences of poverty. He is also the Lead Health Inequalities Advisor for the Child Health and Wellbeing Network and regularly speaks on how poverty impacts on child health and development. Formerly a youth worker and a qualified teacher, Luke passionately believes in the importance of young people’s voices, and has a strong children's rights ethos.


Fionnuala O’Reilly


Fionnuala is the Lead Behavioural Scientist in Nesta’s fairer start mission and is currently seconded from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) until March 2023. At BIT, Fionnuala led the team’s work on early years, which included projects to improve access to, and the quality of, early childhood education. She has also worked with various partners to help parents to create effective learning environments at home. Fionnuala is currently working towards a PhD in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. Her research explores the development of executive function in two-five-year-old children. She also holds degrees in behavioural science from the University of Stirling (MSc) and in economics and French from the University of Limerick (BBS).