School grants: Funding libraries and books

How one school was granted £15,000 for their library, plus we take a look at a reading scheme

‘We received a £15,000 grant for our library’

The worst thing that can happen when you ask for support is that someone can say no, but I never expected a single email request to lead to a £15,000 grant for our new school library! Yet that’s exactly what happened when I approached a large company close to our primary academy in Essex.

Our school has recently expanded from a one to two-form entry to accommodate up to 480 children, from nursery through to Key Stage 2. Building work funded by the local authority was completed earlier this year. However, there were no funds for the school’s communal areas and facilities.

The vision of our new headteacher, Jack Arnold, was to create an IT centre and adventurous new library space that would make reading and books exciting and accessible for all our pupils. Both required substantial funding, so the PTA (with our new chair, Gemma Robertson) sat down with Jack to discuss how we could support each project together. Since I work on the PTA and am also a parent governor, I was able to feed in from both sides.

As a PTA, we felt it was important for parents to see how their donations help improve the school for all our children, so we decided to focus on fundraising for the library. The project included ambitious plans for a treehouse for children to climb into or sit underneath, curved amphitheatre-style seating for whole class teaching, squashy corner seating and toadstool seating.

Our school is near DP World’s logistics hub at London Gateway and I knew they had been helping schools with funding for eco-projects, so I wrote an email outlining what support we were looking for.

Sustainability manager Emma Cowper replied and we invited her and two other DP World representatives to visit. This was a great opportunity for Jack to ‘sell’ the school, explaining what made it special. One of the visitors, who is also a Scout leader, absolutely loved our OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) scheme, which includes a tyre stack, huge sandpit, pond and zipwire. The other representative was really interested in our focus on mental health and wellbeing, including our Student Wellbeing Champions.

After the visit, Emma asked for a list of what we needed to create the library. She then gave us the incredible news that DP World was so impressed by our school, it had decided to cover the whole cost! The PTA raised an additional £2,500 through a series of smaller events to cover items, such as décor and rugs, that we hadn’t included in the original list. We also ran a sponsored read event with Usborne Publishing to raise money for new books, which gave us £2,200 to spend and add to our existing stock. One of our parents, who runs a business called Ärthaus 52, made 3D signs for the shelves and entrance. The library was completed this year – and has proved a huge hit. What’s even better is that DP World has continued to support us by providing STEM training and organising trips.

  • Sharyn Derrick, Abbots Hall PTA, Abbots Hall Primary Academy, Corringham, Essex

Find out more: If your school lies within the London Gateway area you can approach the DP World community fund for support at

How to get more books: The LoveReading4Kids Scheme

Reading for pleasure has a huge impact on children’s wellbeing, academic achievements and future success. However, funding cuts mean school libraries face a chronic lack of investment, with the most disadvantaged communities most affected: one in eight primary schools in England does not have a library, and this jumps to one in four for schools with a higher proportion of children on free school meals.

In 2022, online bookstore launched the LoveReading4Kids Funding for Schools Scheme. This allows book buyers to donate 25% of their spend to a school for spending on books. The buyer may be the school itself or a MAT, and the scheme can also be promoted to parents or others in the school community. Book buyers simply need to nominate a school at the checkout. For instance, when Invictus School Trust purchased books for its schools, the 25% donation of £528 was allocated to a school in the trust.

Schools can also sign up to the website, getting their own page to create reading lists, wishlists and manage their credits. So far, the scheme has raised more than £25,000 for schools to purchase ‘reading for pleasure’ books. Disadvantaged schools can also apply directly to the Funding for Schools Scheme online for up to £5,000 to fund books with a specific focus on reading for pleasure.

There have been more than 150 applications from schools in need of help. The first to receive a donation was Oak Tree Primary School in Mansfield, which has 72% of pupils on FSM. Reading lead Jan Warner said: ‘Through our regular Reading for Pleasure slots on the timetable, we are able to share books to ignite the children’s imagination. Thanks to a generous grant from LoveReading4Kids, we have increased the range of books available. The recommendations on the site have been a helpful starting point for our pupil librarians to assist teachers in selecting books.’

Libraries and literacy links

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