How do you go about finding funds? Carole Jordan, deputy head of Ilford County High School, who has just helped secure science college status for her school, has some useful tips. Get named contacts, she says.
Use former pupils. Take advice from those who know about these things. And always go for cash rather than goods in kind.
Applying for specialist school status is not something to be taken lightly, she warns: "Never under-estimate the time it takes. Fundraising almost has to be a separate process. It wasn't easy and I wouldn't like to under-estimate that." The Specialist Schools Trust offered helpful advice, and the charitable Ogden Trust rose to the rescue. Set up by scientist and entrepreneur Sir Peter Ogden five years ago to widen general educational opportunities, this trust is now planning to concentrate on supporting science and maths, says spokesman Martin Symons. It will promote collaboration between public and private schools, work with the Teach First programme in London, and promote outreach work by universities. Much of the work "will be small-grant stuff, pound;1,000 to pound;5,000" offering matching funds for projects such as science days, or the refurbishment of school laboratories.
Another charity, the Gatsby Foundation, will fund an additional member of a science department for a year because it considers the professional development of a department to be as important as that of individual teachers. The Gatsby Science Enhancement Project has been providing science teachers with resources for the past six years, and now plans to move into developing software and animations to use with whiteboards, as well as offering publications in newer areas of science, such as digital microscopes and rheology. Other Gatsby projects offer individual teacher fellowships up to pound;4,000 and make money available to primary and secondary schools for training.
The Royal Society's partnership grants scheme offers up to pound;2,500 to a school to bring teachers and scientists together to share practical activities. The scheme, which applies to Year 11 and under, involves doctors, vets, wildlife officers, engineers and manufacturers, and has so far reached nearly 500 schools. Or try the European Socrates programme of educational collaboration, accessed through the British Council and the European Molecular Biology Organisation.