I'm a big fan of the business adage, 'plan your work, then work your plan' - and it's certainly paid off. I have compiled a list of charities and grant givers, with windows to apply and deadlines. I have also created a diary of application dates for annual and biannual grants, such as Awards for All, Birmingham Airport, One Stop and Tesco.
It was great to hear at the start of the year that our school had been granted £10,000 from Berkswell Parish Church to refurbish the swimming pool, following an application last September. The pool floor had severely deteriorated and it had been under threat of closure due to health and safety. The grant means we will be able to continue swimming lesson for around 1,000 children who use our pool every week.
Since the start of the academic year, my aim has been to organise visitors and fundraising events to match the curriculum as far as possible. The school has upped its eco focus recently, and we hit the ground running this month with our classroom Oceans topic.
I asked the Bear Grylls Experience at the NEC to run a training session on plastic pollution. I also organised a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities, including the aquarium. In addition, the school raised enough money for Water Aid to sponsor two wells in Africa. And Julie Dixon of energy supplier E.ON came into school to talk at an eco assembly and explain how we can all do our part to save energy and use more sustainable sources, such as wind farms and solar energy.
As part of the school's Rivers topic, I organised visits by representatives from Arup - a locally based structural engineering company with an international reach that includes the Sydney Opera House and the Millennium Bridge. The engineers gave practical demonstrations about how precipitation works and its impact on planning, and where and what you are able to build. Arup built a nearby business park, Blythe Valley, and had to re-route a river and put in eco-friendly reed beds to clean the water and protect wildlife. The children were amazed because they had never considered all of the implications of rainfall, or indeed how many different roles an engineer can play in the built environment. Hopefully, we inspired some pupils to become the engineers of the future.
For Science Week, I received three packs of a Design Process Box from Dyson. This introduces primary school students to product design, challenging them to find inspiration in everyday objects to develop ideas and solve problems.
As part of our ongoing partnership with Solihull College, I arranged for 1 'Science Ambassadors' from Balsall Common to visit the college and take part in experiments they could bring back to do with their classes.
These included how to identify gases and examine their density. We again joined forces with the college to celebrate Africa Day - on this occasion, students from the veterinary department came in to show us some exotic African animals and insects such as tarantulas, geckos, snakes, giant millipedes and land snails. The Solihull students also talked about the challenges of their course.
As part of a school project on governance, I invited the Mayor of Solihull to talk to Year 6 pupils about his role, and the work of councillors, barristers and the police. This was a first-hand introduction to who makes the law, who defends our laws and who enforces them. Pupils from our school council had a trip to the council house to meet the mayor, see where council meetings take place and take their seats for a meeting of their own. We also set up a group of junior police community support officers, with the help of the local police. The children had to apply for the job and complete a six-week training course before graduating. They will tackle litter, bullying and anti-social parking outside school as their main tasks.
The school made a new connection with a local care home back in December when residents came to see our Christmas production. Since then, I have worked on developing closer links and will take our children to visit the residents. We are hoping the residents can teach the children traditional skills like knitting and needlework, and also talk about their experiences as children in the war. Some have also volunteered to help our pupils with reading, and are keen to attend our special events.
Our main topic this month was Healthy Eating. A local pub, the Saracens Head, has embraced this topic with us in the past - and this year the staff ran sessions on making healthy snacks.
I also worked on the F1 in Schools Challenge, securing £1,800 in sponsorship from selling advertising on the cars, banners and T-shirts. I made plans for a careers day supported by local businesses, two more healthy eating sessions, and two Jaguar Land Rover volunteer days that will hopefully lead to vital maintenance work being carried out at school over the summer.
I have submitted several bids of between £500 and £1,000 for books, play areas and a sensory room. In addition, I am awaiting the outcome of two CIF (Condition Improvement Fund) bids worth just over £1,000,000 that were submitted in November. If successful, it will mean inefficient boilers being replaced at Balsall Common Primary School, and a new roof at Damson Wood School.
All in all, it was the busiest start to the year I've ever had, but then perhaps I am more organised than I've ever been! Inevitably, everything came to a bit of a standstill when the schools were closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, my hope is that I have put enough things in place to be able to hit the ground running when we're back to normal - and I can continue planning even when we're not.