Walking for WiFi

‘We walked for WiFi – and raised more than £10,000 for a new network!’

‘St Joseph’s is an inclusive one-form entry primary school, with nursery and wraparound care. In order to give each pupil the best learning experience, we need up-to-date technology. However, our old WiFi network was struggling to handle recent increases in demand and usage. This meant slow log-on speeds, dropped connections, poor device performance and limited WiFi access in some parts of the school. Plus, our experience of remote learning was more challenging than it should have been.

We needed a completely new network to modernise our school and enable staff and students to work more efficiently. The cost – which would include wireless access points, wired switches, new equipment and inter-switch cabling – was £10,000.

We are so small that raising this amount of money was a mammoth task. So we decided to organised a sponsored Walk for WiFi, using the InvestMyCommunity fundraising platform.

Our aim was for everyone in the school community to take part, so that we would walk a total of 10,000 miles as a school. Our message was that if each pupil raised £50, we would easily reach our target. Following the national lockdowns, we noticed our families taking daily walks, so thought it would be attractive to them.

We launched our campaign in May 2021, just before half term, so that parents could fully engage over the break. Julie Beale at IMC helped us create a timeline of communication and this really helped build momentum. We sent ‘teasers’ in the hope that families would be interested in hearing more. We also tweeted about the event and sent weekly flyers in the lead up to the launch. We asked parents to share our IMC page and help raise funds. We posted photos of pupils using laptops and outlined our plans in a downloadable leaflet.

As we are a Church school, we extended the fundraiser into the Parish, including the Church newsletter. We held a school assembly to share the idea, which created much excitement and encouraged many children to commit to helping.

The IMC platform was very straightforward for those taking part in the walk to use. They simply tapped a ‘getting started’ button and selected the ‘Raise Funds for Us!’ online sponsor form. The social media buttons made it easy for pupils to invite friends and family to support them on the Walk for WiFi. Several added their own photos of the walking challenge.

We encouraged individuals to set up their own sponsorship page and compete against one another. The leaderboard showed the top three fundraisers, and this was never static as it really did encourage competition – after all, what granny would not want to see their grandchild in the number one spot!

Pupils and their families rose to the challenge, many creating their own pages. Lots of people posted messages of encouragement and congratulations on the supporters’ section, which was lovely. We also created certificates so that pupils would feel proud of their achievements.

One further initiative was to contact local businesses asking if they could donate anything or sponsor the event. A local estate agent paid £250 to have a logo on the home page and many other smaller businesses followed suit.

In total, we raised £10,425, and we also received £1,020 in Gift Aid. The new system was installed over the summer holiday and we are all reaping the benefits!’

Nicola Philpott, deputy headteacher, St Joseph's Catholic School (210 pupils), Bracknell, Berkshire