Fundraising for ICT

14th April 2000 at 01:00
How to tame ICT's insatiable appetite for your school computers. In a little over six months, William Farr (CE) School in Lincolnshire, has raised almost pound;60,000 using a variety of sources.

The school, which has 1,200 students aged 11-18, needed to raise this amount as part of its application to become a Technology College. Headteacher Paul Strong was at the heart of the fund-raising campaign, spending much of his time phoning, meeting and corresponding with many potential sponsors and supporters.

Eileen Chapman, associate deputy head (curriculum), explains how the money was raised: "You've go to be proactive - you can't just sit back and wait for the funds to come to you. There are funds out there, but there are also more and more schools chasing them." It helps if your school has a high profile, she adds, and that means generating publicity in both local and national press: "It makes things a lot easier when you contact someone if they have already heard of you."

Any requests for funds need to be specific, well thought-out and professionally presented. One of the first things William Farr school did was to consult the Directory of Grant Marketing to find suitable charitable foundations. The school also raised money through its PTA and by asking all parents for any support they could afford: "When it comes to fundraising, every little helps and you can accumulate large amounts of money through numerous small donations," says Chapman.

William Farr also used the school fund and got help from the local Chambers of Commerce, and the Lincolnshire Business Education Trust, a consortium of local companies. Support also came from the school's seven major feeder primary schools, while several educational ICT companies provided funds or software in exchange for William Farr helping them test products. The school also has its own canteen, and profits from this were ploughed back into the school.

Money was also saved by the staff at William Farr carrying out their own ICT maintenance, rather than using an external company, and the school negotiated discounts with many of its suppliers or bought things through a consortium, which has greater buying power. The University of Lincolnshire and Humberside also provided support by running INSET courses for the schol.

Eileen Chapman says schools need to keep their eyes on new educational initiatives which offer extra funding, and that means reading the educational press and checking out websites including the DFEE's (the press releases section is always worth consulting). As Eileen Chapman puts it:

"If you don't go out and try, you won't get anything."

DFEE Anytime Anywhere Learning George Cole Last February, Microsoft launched its Anytime Anywhere Learning (AAL) programme in the UK. The aim of AAL is to provide all pupils with their own portable computers, which Mark East, Microsoft's Education Group manager, admits that is a tall order. "If the Government had the goal of one-to-one access, it would cost around pound;8 billion," he says, "and this funding would have to be refreshed every three years."

The message is clear: if access to ICT is to be greatly increased, funds are going to have to be provided by schools, parents and the private sector. That is why Microsoft has launched e-Learning Foundations, a programme set up by business consultants Arthur Anderson to help schools form their own charitable foundations.

The advantages this offers include tax relief on parental contributions through a deed of covenant: "A contribution from a basic-rate tax payer means schools can make a saving of up to 23 per cent on the price of computer. So if four parents make a deed of covenant, it could effectively mean one free PC for the school," says East. And getting support from corporates could be easier, as tax relief can be claimed on any charitable donations they make. Microsoft has already pledged to donate 7 per cent of its software profits to charitable causes.

By the time you read this, e-Learning documents should have gone out to schools, and the Charity Commission says it will process all applications quickly. Microsoft's initiative appears laudable, but not every school or LEA will be able to support parents in buying a computer. What education is crying out for is a National Foundation, and Microsoft is considering this, to ensure schools can benefit from initiatives like e-Learning.

If the Government is serious about preventing a digital divide forming in our society, it will establish a National Foundation - and quickly.

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