SEN Funding: We raised £5,000 towards a sensory garden

Staff at the Marlborough Centre in Kent have taken part in adventurous activities to raise money for their crowdfunding campaign

The Marlborough Centre was originally designed as a space where children struggling in our mainstream primary school could receive extra support, but over the years it’s been increasingly used for children with complex autism who need full-time placements. The centre is on the same site as Hoo St Werburgh Primary School in Rochester, Kent, and the two schools work closely to teach children of all educational needs.

Many of our pupils are non-verbal, thriving in highly sensory environments filled with colours, moving patterns and tactile toys. However, the Marlborough Centre was never designed to cater for children with such specialist needs. So in November, we began our Marlborough On A Mission campaign. Our ultimate goal is to raise £20,000, a sum that will transform our facilities. We want to renovate the centre’s outdoor space as it is currently right next door to the mainstream playground. It can be hard for our children to emotionally regulate in such proximity to the gleeful, breaktime clamour next door.

Working with a specialist company, Pentagon Play, we created a design. The floor – which was old and concrete – needed replacing with a safe, hard-wearing alternative. To make it visually interesting, we agreed to set a coloured ‘river’ into the ground. To quieten the garden, we will build a thicker fence between us and the playground. But things won’t always be peaceful – we will also purchase some durable outdoor instruments such as xylophones and drums!

Perhaps the biggest change will be the large, coloured canopy roof. On sunny days, this will reflect rainbow light onto the ground but when it rains, the children will still be able to play outdoors.

With only 80 families at the school, we couldn’t keep repeating the same raffles and bake sales. So in this campaign we organised a range of exceptionally active fundraisers. One teaching assistant daringly raised £600 from a sponsored skydive. Another member of staff organised a 24-hour rope climb which generated over £1,000. A group of us have even climbed Snowdon. All in all, we have so far raised £6,450 – that includes online donations through the crowdfunding platform InvestMyCommunity (now known as GoodHub), £1,900 offline and a further £590 from Gift Aid. We are also applying for funding from our academy trust, which would allow us to complete the renovations next year. It will be incredible to see the children interacting with the space when it is ready.

  • Louise Kennett is the head of the Marlborough Centre, Rochester, Kent

Further inspiration

Join FundEd to access our database featuring over £14m of grants for schools