In today’s world of ever-increasing costs and shrinking budgets it’s important for schools to get the best value for money, but have you explored the possibility of securing free goods or services? As a school we spend thousands of pounds every year buying in resources that we could get for free if we only asked. This can be as simple as making the most of bulk-buying schemes such as BOGOF or getting free goods on a sponsorship-type basis. I like to break down the needs of our school into four key areas: goods, services, trips and visitors.
I was initially approached by a local hotel, who asked if our children would like to design the new cover for its children’s menu. We were of course delighted! The winners received a cookbook and the winning design was used for the menu, plus all of the artwork was used as a collage and put on the restaurant wall with a plaque.
From this, our relationship with the hotel grew – and it now supplies all the ingredients for the school cooking club, has helped with the Children’s Food Trust Big Cookathon, and given numerous prizes for raffles and fundraising events. This has saved the school around £700 per year – not including the money generated from raffles and the £2,000 for the Cookathon.
Similarly, GO Outdoors supplied us with camp stoves for the Big Cookathon; MA Claims bought 50 rugby balls at a cost of £250; CMA Video donated a £650 digital camera; Specsavers donated 100 high-vis jackets worth £200; and Camera One bought winter coats worth £300 for our playleaders.
Action: Draw up a list of the things you want for your school and think of local businesses that make or stock the items. Phone them and ask, but remember to tell them why you want the item and what impact it will have.
Jaguar Land Rover is a large car manufacturer based locally, and has an excellent record in Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR). As a large, three-form-entry school we have a lot of boundary fencing dividing the different outdoor areas, and it had become weather-worn and scruffy. We wanted to paint it and were faced with two choices: do it ourselves, which would cost £600 in materials and tie up our site manager for three weeks; or pay someone to paint them for us, but the cost of this was over £3,000, so this was simply not an option.
I contacted Jaguar Land Rover via Solihull Sustain – a local charity set up to partner businesses with local charities and schools. The company was more than happy to help and used it as a team-building event. It sent 21 employees to the school and completed the task in two days – as a bonus, they also built a huge bug hotel!
Action: What services have you had to buy in over the last year? Target large businesses based locally and contact them, ask if they have CSR policy, explain what you need and why, and you’ll be surprised how many companies will offer to help.
For 'maths week' last year, I asked a carpet-fitter friend to come and talk to the children. This might not be the first thing you'd think of, but good old Phil the carpet-fitter came in with his knee pads on and carrying his tool box. I introduced him and the children all stared at him as if he were mad! He told them I had asked him to come in, and then they all stared at me as if I were mad! He began by telling them what he did. 'Tell you what, how big is this room?' he asked. 'You at the front – grab this tape measure.'
Once they’d worked out how much underlay and carpet would be needed – and the cost of each – they could help prepare a quote. Slowly the penny dropped – they were using maths! We have lots of other visitors who come in to speak on a wide variety of topics. Vistors include the mayor, Severn Trent, a local magistrate, E.ON, Caroline Spelman MP, Lions Club, Barclays, Lloyds, EDF Energy, Air Ambulance and the RNLI. Again, all of these people give up their time for free to help enhance the curriculum and pupils' learning.
Action: Identify who comes into school each year and why. What knowledge do they bring and at what cost? Are there businesses locally that could do the same thing? There are hundreds of businesses that can help you – all you have to do is ask.
On discovering that primary school children were unable to attend The Skills Show at the NEC, I decided to set something up myself. The event, which Solihull Chamber of Commerce helped organise, was held at Solihull College’s Woodlands Campus and was intended to show pupils what a career in engineering could offer. Year 6 pupils took part in various activities, including using the flight simulator, 3D design and printing, mechanical engineering, hair and beauty, construction, and testing in a wind tunnel.
The pupils were joined by Solihull Mayor, Mike Robinson, and given a tour of the engineering training facilities. It was a great event and showed real collaborative working. We contacted Monarch Airlines, which has one of the largest hangers in Europe and was more than happy for us to take some children to look around.
The children were amazed at the size of the facility and were lucky enough to see both a propeller plane and a jet plane and learn the differences between the two. They saw the jet plane have its engine removed and stood under it, next to the huge rear wheels – not something many children get to do!
We have also had trips to John Lewis for several events, and have visited the local egg farm, an award-winning cheese-maker, Balfour Beatty, Network Rail, the National Motorcycle Museum, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Birmingham Hippodrome and Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel, and had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Silverstone Race Circuit – all for free!
Action: How much money do you spend on trips? Are there other options? The simple answer is yes. Think about how school visits to local businesses could fit in with the curriculum and then make that call, but remember to explain what impact it will have on children’s learning and give the company the opportunity for publicity.
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Howard Rose is Director of Funding and Publicity at Balsall Common Primary School. He secures grants, sponsorship and support from businesses to enhance teaching and learning, and has won much recognition for his achievements, including the 2015 Chambers of Commerce Education and Business Partnership Award.