Ad man aims to net capital cash

In a move being closely followed by other schools, former advertising executive Paul Gibbs has been employed as a full-time fund raiser at St Augustine of Canterbury Secondary School, in Taunton, Somerset.

The school has an active parent-school association which runs traditional fund-raisi ng activities, but Mr Gibbs's role is additional and will not affect its work. Instead, he will concentrate on attracting money from industry for capital projects.

"The association will continue to function." he said, "It is filling a vital role in fund raising and also forging social links between the pupils, parents and staff."

Mr Gibbs, 30, was appointed after the post was advertised last summer and will be paid on commission. The post is initially for one-year and the hours worked are flexible. He has had past experience of fund raising for organisations on a voluntary basis.

Targets to be reached have not been formally set, but the school hopes that in his first year he will bring in enough to repay #163;70, 000 borrowed by the school as a contribution to a #163;500,000 new block that incorporates a library and laboratories. Other areas that have been identified by governors for extra spending include replacing a number of temporary classrooms at the 540-pupil school, building a new sports hall and investing in more information technology equipment.

Although there have been cutbacks in the Somerset education budget the creation of the post is mainly to do with the school's status as a joint Church of England and Roman Catholic voluntary school; it is one of only eight in the country.

Voluntary-aided schools are required to find 15 per cent of their capital costs. The loan of #163;70, 000 for the new block came from the Anglican diocese of Bath and Wells and the Roman Catholic diocese of Clifton.

Mr Gibbs said: "I was attracted to the job because I wanted to do something flexible and because it is a Church school, which is something I believe in as a Christian. I don't see this as a purely fund raising exercise. St Augustine's has a lot to offer the community and vice versa."

Headteacher Derek Whalley believes links with businesses would benefit the education provided by the school as well as its finances. Partnerships could be developed, he suggested, with pupils doing work experience and local industry advising on what they they are looking for from potential employees.

"One of the reasons for appointing a fund raiser is to get someone who can put time into attracting funds from other than traditional sources," said Mr Whalley. "To invest in schools is to invest in the future."

Already Mr Gibbs has contacted 250 companies and the response has been positive. A regional television company has agreed to sponsor the school's basketball team, and sponsors for the science labs are also being sought.

Ethical consideratio ns will be taken into account when deciding which firms are approached and the children will not be used as a conduit to pass on advertising material to parents.

The school may run courses for local firms if required, and companies and local industry could, as the churches do, make use of the classrooms and facilities for meetings.

Mr Whalley said: "This is new ground for us and we see it as a way forward for the school. We have had other schools ask for details, wanting to know what is going on here. So, appointments like this could soon become more commonplace."

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