‘We are a large primary school, lucky enough to have lots of outdoor space. When lockdown started, we put up a party tent that we’d previously used for events, to enable learning to take place outside and accommodate all our key worker children safely. The system worked well, but the tent had seen better days. So we came up with the idea of getting a couple of classroom marquees ready for September.
As a Platinum Artsmark school, we wanted to ensure that the aspects of our curriculum we put a lot of value on – such as group work, music and drama – were able to continue. The move to staggered lunchtimes to enable social distancing meant our usual dining hall venue was out of action for much of the day. We also couldn’t use the normal classrooms, since the seats were set up in rows.
Each marquee offered 96sqm of space, enough to comfortably accommodate and socially distance 30 children and a teacher. My plan was to designate one marquee for creative work, with the idea that it could become our music room (if we’re allowed to sing and use instruments again), and use the other to extend our classroom provision. We’d had really positive feedback about our approach to lockdown and the huge amount of work we’d done, so June seemed like a good time to ask our families for help with funding the marquees, which were £1,500 each. We decided to try crowdfunding, and used DonateMySchool, who were incredibly helpful and talked us through the process of setting up an appeal, as well as offering additional ideas and support. I felt the 3% charge was very reasonable.
Our school has a very active Facebook page, so we publicised the appeal through that and by email. It was clear we’d got our timing right when we hit the initial target of £3,000 within a week! I decided to keep the campaign going so that we could get a few extras. Our final total of £3,740 enabled us to buy tables for the marquees, as well as a trolley to transport them. We also bought a third marquee from the school budget to give Year 1 a covered outside area.
We received a lot of donations from grandparents, some of whom live quite a way off and follow our concerts and events on Facebook. We did, however, miss out on some income by not being registered for Gift Aid in time so I recommend that every PTA signs up for this.
When the marquees arrived, we pitched them ourselves. Each one took at least four hours to erect. They were officially opened by our school pupil prime minister before the summer and the children were very excited to try them out. In the summer it was lovely being outside with the sides up and the grass under our feet. We plan to continue using them through the winter, and a parent has volunteered to install lighting and electrics. Once we no longer need to socially distance, the marquees will be put to good use for events such as our arts festival, summer fayre and sports day.
Wendy James, headteacher, Sidegate Primary School, Ipswich, Suffolk (655 pupils)