After many years of use, the playground equipment and trim trails at our East Grinstead primary school were looking the worse for wear. Some pieces had been removed and others roped off, leaving the children with less scope to enjoy their play times. In addition, there were areas of dead space, and parts of the playground that could not be used due to excessive mud or uneven paving.
It was time for a facelift, and the PTA came up with the idea of creating a stage. This would provide an area for children to perform and role play during playtime. It could also enhance learning by becoming a dedicated area for storytelling, poetry recitals and drama.
In late 2020, the PTA applied to two local funders: East Grinstead Memorial Estate and East Grinstead Lions. Approaching funders in our town made sense as we knew they would be keen to help the community. The application processes were quick and straightforward. We submitted photographs of the space available, together with costed proposals of what we could do to make it more engaging.
The committee at East Grinstead Lions particularly liked the idea of a stage, and awarded £795 for one to be installed. The application to East Grinstead Memorial Estate provided an additional £1,500, allowing us to commission the installation of a larger wooden stage area. This was completed during February half term and named the ‘Elemental Arena’ after a pupil vote.
From this initial success, our PTA committee decided to continue the playground improvement with a far more ambitious three-phase project. The focus of phase one was to rectify the problems with muddy and uneven ground and to install new seating. Phase two would replace the old Key Stage 2 trim trail, while phase three would involve the installation of a canopy for shade and all-weather play on the Key Stage 1 playground. With the benefits to children’s physical and mental wellbeing these improvements would bring, we felt confident that our school community and grant funders would support us.
In spring 2021, we made grant applications to local grant-giving trusts, as well as two national funders: Morrisons Foundation and Steel Charitable Trust. Quick responses were received from the East Grinstead Memorial Estate (again) and Southover Manor Trust, which supports young people’s learning across Sussex. Sadly, our applications to the national funders were turned down. (The Steel Charitable Trust indicated it had received an unprecedented number of applications and was only able to respond favourably to less than five per cent of requests). However, we were delighted to receive a total of £15,800 from the local funders.
Having successfully raised funds in 2021 through socially-distanced and virtual events, passive income streams and other initiatives, it was agreed to top up the grant money from the PTA’s general funds to enable phase one to go ahead during the autumn term. However, at the end of August, we received the exciting news that we had been awarded £3,750 by the Gatwick Airport Community Trust! This meant that phase one could be fully financed with grants, enabling us to turn our attentions to funding phases two and three.
Sarah Everson, secretary, Friends of Halsford Park School, East Grinstead, West Sussex (410 pupils)