Innovative Practice - Mass appeal

5th October 2012 at 01:00
Raising money through a crowdfunding website to create an outdoor eco-classroom in a primary

The background

Upton Heath CofE Primary in Chester has transformed itself over the past two years, from a school that was regarded as failing by Ofsted to one rated as good by inspectors.

But the larger-than-average primary still needs to fix a few problems with its grounds. Its playground lacks any shaded sections or an area that could be used for PE when it is wet. The school also needs extra space for performances, and is keen to encourage its pupils to learn about the environment.

The project

The school came up with the idea of "the Hive", an eco-classroom in its playground. Named by one of its Year 5 pupils, the multipurpose space will act as an outdoor classroom, handy for lessons about the school's pond, woodland and meadows. It will also be used as a performance space and a shelter for parents waiting to collect their children when it is raining.

The most significant aspect of the project, however, is that it will be fitted with an array of photovoltaic panels that will provide green energy and act as a source of income.

Like many schools, Upton Heath does not have capital funds to spare in its budget for a building project, so it had to find another way to raise the money. It opted to do so using a crowdfunding website, and then persuaded a renewable energy scheme to match the money raised.

Upton Heath created a light-hearted video starring its pupils making the case for the Hive. One scene showed a child having a bucket of water thrown over them to represent rain, while in another the pupils acted as if they had been overcome by the heat ("When it gets hot, we get hot, and nobody can do anything apart from stand around in the scorching sun.")

They uploaded the video to the UK crowdfunding website Peoplefund.it, inviting parents and others to make donations. The site offers donors incentives in return for their pledges, so parents at Upton Heath who pledged more than #163;100 were promised their name on the building as a reward. The money is only taken from accounts once a target sum has been exceeded.

The school intended to double the money raised with match funding from Energyshare, a renewable energy campaign that offers support to schools and other organisations.

Tips from the scheme

Crowdfunding websites can be a handy alternative to traditional methods of school fundraising, such as raffles and fetes.

Investigate to see what other sources of additional funding may be available - various charities and non-profit groups have schemes that can be applicable to schools.

Evidence that it works?

Upton Heath exceeded its #163;5,000 fundraising target on Peoplefund.it and has doubled this to more than #163;10,000 by getting match funding from Energyshare.

"We're absolutely delighted," says headteacher Paula Moreton. "Crowdfunding just seemed a perfect way of bringing the community and staff together at the school to back the Hive."

Peoplefund.it reports that other schools, including Perranporth Community Primary in Cornwall, are now using their site and the Energyshare project to bid for funds for solar heating and other forms of renewable energy.

Nick Underhill, managing director of KEO Digital, which built Energyshare.com, feels that fundraising sites have "massive" potential for schools. "Not only does it give schools an easy platform to launch fundraising on, the feedback is that it gives projects a credibility and encourages community engagement."

THE PROJECT

Approach: The Hive Started 2012

Supported by: The crowdfunding site Peoplefund.it (www.peoplefund.it) and Energyshare (www.energyshare.com)

THE SCHOOL

Name: Upton Heath CofE Primary School

Location: Chester

Pupils: 364

Age range: 4-11

Intake: Low proportion eligible for free school meals

Ofsted: overall rating Good (2011).

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