OM providing free books for children
After a few years teaching and travelling Mike O’Regan (B2 1961-65) went on to co-found Research Machines, which supplies IT equipment, software and services to schools. When RM – as it was later known – went public he involved himself in several new start-up companies but also started two charities, Hamilton Trust and Peeple (then PEEP). Peeple supports parents, usually mothers, of children under five, from birth, and has been influential nationally in helping shape government and other policy on early years education, including the now mostly departed Sure Start. Hamilton Trust focused initially on supporting schools in the relatively disadvantaged areas of Oxford In a similar way to Marlborough, which is considered by Wiltshire Council to be leafy and not requiring support, Oxford is a city of great contrasts. Out of this work grew Hamilton’s initiatives developing writing materials for primary school teachers and making them available on their website; an estimated 40 to 50,000 teachers use Hamilton materials every month.
All those interests have come together this year, as Mike and his wife Jane, who moved to Marlborough from Oxford in 2014, have started and are funding a new initiative called Imagination Marlborough. It was Jane’s idea, drawn partly from her experience of reading with children every week at Marlborough St Mary’s primary school, and having a strong interest in encouraging children to read. The scheme is under the umbrella of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (yes, the singer!): in selected areas, all children under five, can receive an age-appropriate book every month from birth until their fifth birthday. Jane and Mike are keen to emphasise that there’s no catch! There are an estimated 700 children under five in the Marlborough area, and they hope that they can encourage up to half of the parents to enroll their children within the first 12 months.