Benefits for all

By asking local businesses for support, Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School has created an additional income stream, says development director Brian Davies

We are a selective state school in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, with academy status. Founded in 1527, we currently have 1,294 pupils; this will grow to over 1,400 in the next three years due to a continuing expansion of Year 7 and our Sixth Form. We are committed to providing inspiration and excellence. However, the ongoing uncertainty of government funding means we have had to be proactive in generating new revenue streams to deliver on this commitment.

In our favour is the fact that the reach of our school network today is vast – and this is an attraction for business. Five years ago, we began developing a programme of engagement with the local business community in the form of a corporate partnership scheme. The idea was to build support from a network of businesses in a way that would mutually benefit corporate partners and the school community.

The scheme was officially launched in 2017, though we recruited 12 businesses ahead of this to create credibility. Each company pays an annual fee of £2,000, in return for the opportunity to network with each other and promote their services to the school community, parents and alumni. Our Old Veseyan Association (OVA) provides access to alumni all over the world, many of whom are also successful business leaders seeking to extend their networks further. On average, the scheme has around 30 members, ranging from PR and media companies to financial services, print and furniture. We offer a degree of exclusivity by only having one corporate partner from a specific business area at any one time.

Usually, we hold six networking events a year. We also offer free tickets for school events, such as the annual Golf Day, advertising via the school’s website and social media pages, and physical banners around the school sports pitches. This is all included as part of the package. We’ve produced a booklet to promote the scheme, highlighting a Business In The Community survey which states that 81 per cent of customers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause, if price and quality were equal.

The partnerships are an important way of enriching the lives of our students. Any funds raised are ploughed back into our Inspiration and Excellence Fund. Plus there is added value from the business support we receive in supporting career development, such as work experience opportunities and attendance at the school’s annual Jobs and Careers Fair.

Key takeaways

1 - Know your community: be aware of what is affordable for your business community and what benefits companies will be looking for in return for what is effectively a marketing investment. Take time to get feedback and run a 'quiet phase' ahead of your official launch. Having some businesses already on board will immediately make the scheme more attractive to other potential partners.

2 - Value of social media: don't underestimate the impact (and work involved) of social media platforms. Promoting your corporate partners via your school's social media pages will both provide credibility and offer the opportunity to develop new networks.

3 - Added value: consider how else your business community can support pupils - can they offer mentoring, work experience or careers advice? Could you promote the use of school facilities for their events, or could they provide in kind support, for example printing brochures for the school?

  • For more information, visit the free toolkit at idpe.org.uk

What businesses say

'Ark Media has been a corporate partner at BVGS since the inception of the programme. The contacts we have make within the partnership have been extremely beneficial to the business, generating an average of £20k worth of income annually. The partnership has led me personally to having a closer connection to the school I attended in the mid-1990s, and I am now a governor. I've made some really good contact through the partnership, which has also led to me becoming the president of the Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce.'

Philip Arkinstall, Ark Media

'I attended Bishop Vesey's in the 1960s and 1970s and enjoyed my time there enormously. I have kept in touch my attending OVA dinners and other events. I became a Friend of the Vesey Community by supporting fundraising projects, including the STEM Clock appeal. In the last few years, I have developed more of a partnership with the school. I supply print and furniture, and am also the main sponsor of the Gold Day. This helps the school raise additional funds for sporting requirements, and also provides networking and business opportunities with other sponsors and Friends of the School.

We have already benefited from business secured via the advertising of the Golf Day. This includes orders made following the initial introductions from Brian Davies, and also further sales from meeting people at the event. We were very happy to support the school anyway, and being able to make a return on our sponsorship investment is an added incentive.'

Clive Poole, X2 Furniture