When Eve Daniels agreed to Chair the John Roan School Association (JRSA) in South East London three years ago, she did so with the aim of transforming their enthusiastic friends group into a fundraising PTA powerhouse that supports the whole community. The PTA became a registered charity at the start of lockdown with the aim to help bridge the lockdown learning gap.
Knowing the challenges of lockdown learning, the team's first aim was to be able to provide every student with a laptop to be able to study at home. They've raised over £15,000 to achieve this with the help of fundraising events, Gift Aid, matched funding and more. This is not the end of the road, though - they've got other ambitious plans to help benefit the school and students!
Eve picks up the story...
“We’ve always had a very strong PTA and a strong school community” Eve explains. “It took several challenging years for our school to convert to an academy, it was during this time that the PTA recognised that we were in a unique position to be able to help the leadership team to improve the quality of teaching, learning and behaviour. “And that’s what we set out to do.”
Charity status is the key that opens doors, minds and pockets!
When Eve first joined the JRSA as a committee member, they were only doing a couple of events a year, raising just enough to support a few departments in the school. The PTA had ambitions to raise their profile and to be taken more seriously by the school and parents. So when she agreed to take on the role of Chair, it was with this in mind. “I made the decision that if I’m taking this on it has to change. I wanted to make a real difference. I didn’t want to raise tens of pounds, I wanted to maybe change the IT department or build a stage for the drama department and that all costs thousands not tens of pounds.”
Within the first term of my daughter starting I made the conscious decision to get involved in school life by attending a PTA meeting. I quickly became an active member of the group and helped out wherever needed. When the position of Chair became vacant after a few years I was nominated for the role, and was excited to be able to play my part in shaping the future direction of the PTA.
Eve recognised that by becoming a registered charity, there was potential to raise a lot more money from grants, Gift Aid and through matched funding: “So I said to the committee I really want to take us to charity status and one of my amazing volunteers, Trish Bullen, offered to talk to Parentkind. She took the bull by the horns and went through all of your guidelines, she used your Constitution and filled in all the paperwork… she pushed it through the Charity Commission in four weeks.”
Eve tells us that the charity status was confirmed during lockdown, which meant the PTA had the opportunity to take advantage of claiming Gift Aid on donations. They worked with the leadership team and teachers at the school on their first major fundraising campaign which has been taken seriously by the both the school and wider community. Eve is pleased that the perception of the group has shifted away from being a “group of parents that make teas and coffees at parents evening - that’s just a small part of our role in supporting the school.”
"I’ve wanted to change our school PTA into a charity for so long and it was down to your guidelines that made it happen. We can now get Gift Aid from every tax payer’s donations which has helped us buy lots more Chromebooks for our students to help them do well and learn without hassle."
I was excited to see how we could reach out to other parents, improve communications and build a stronger sense of community across the diverse parent body for all seven year groups. I knew that a healthy and active PTA can influence school life in a really positive way, not least because of the way it fosters team work, develops positive and collaborative staff/parent relationships and of course can be very influential when it comes to fundraising.
The JRSA has a small board of trustees, we decided to appoint two chairs, both taking on their own responsibilities. Neil Kennett Brown, co-Chair is very accustomed to chairing meetings as his role as Director on the Governing body of the NHS South East London Commissioning Group, he chairs the six meetings per year, whilst Eve supports him as co-Chair by setting the agenda, managing expectations, liaise on day to day issues with the Head and execute plans set by the committee. After 20 years working in publishing, Eve made the decision five years ago to start her own business to really make a difference in people's lives. She is now the Co-Owner of two very successful nurseries in Greenwich, South East London and is able to make enough time in her working week to continue supporting her children’s school by Co-Chairing the PTA.
"The trustees all have very clear roles and we play to our strengths to best support the charity. Trish, who initially set up the charity through Parentkind, creates all our advertising and graphic work as well as volunteering her time at events. Livy is an excellent writer and leads a sub-committee who write letters, press releases and good news stories. Amber is our secretary, taking minutes at all meetings and also facilitating JRSA support at school events. Sandra is a teacher within a different school, and brings her experience of a different education context into play with us in the JRSA. She has also had years of experience in our school and volunteers her time at many events throughout the year. Ian has recently joined as treasurer, managing the accounts and fundraising technical platforms. Finally Vicky has also joined us recently, as a parent of two sons already in the school and with another two children joining in the future. She has strong links to our primary schools so she can help with the transition to secondary, and also volunteers to support in any way she can at our events and with our fundraising throughout the year."
PTA steps up to support pupils during lockdown
“In April 2020 we worked really hard with parents, students and teachers to build awareness of the digital divide that existed between those who had access to technology to support remote learning and those who did not, and we knew we had the potential to do something about it. Since pupil premium recipients make up more than 50% of our school community, we knew that accessing lessons from home and participating in online learning was going to be very difficult for many of our young people."
The 120 Campaign
"So we launched the 120 Challenge, with the aim of raising enough money to buy 120 Chromebooks to loan to students for use at home. The fact that the laptops were available at the subsidised price of £120 each (we had a pledge for match-funding from both United Learning, our new academy sponsor and The John Roan Foundation) meant our target was £14,400! It was a big stretch but we encouraged everyone to get on board in whatever way they could, taking on a personal or group 120 challenge of their own and being sponsored for their efforts, or donating to support the endeavours of others."
"We had members of staff, parents and students doing all sorts: crafting 120 hand-made bunting triangles and selling them, sketching 120 portraits, playing the piano for 120 minutes using self-composed music, completing 120 watercolour paintings, cycling 120 miles, climbing 12 flights of stairs 120 times in a row (which lasted for 9 hours!), jogging 120km as a team, enduring 120 seconds of head shaving, and even hula hooping 120 times in a row. We also had our very own 120-themed virtual quiz night to add to the efforts. With so many people pulling together it only took us five weeks to reach our target and go beyond - raising more than £15,000 in order to turn our hopes into reality with the purchase of 120 Chromebooks that could be loaned to support students with remote learning."
I would say the Chromebook were an absolute lifeline for some students during both lockdowns. Many of our students do not have device access and as such, not having a device represented a real threat to their education. Having a Chromebook allowed students to access their lessons, get feedback from their teachers and experience a sense of normality, hearing the voices of their peers and teachers. Coming out of lockdown, students have continued to make good use of the devices by using them to revise and complete homework. Rosie Masson, Teacher of History and RE Lead teacher
The Chromebooks have been benefited the Geography Department immensely, both during lockdown and moving forward. Students can easily access platforms such as Seneca to complete their homework as well as revise areas that they need to improve on. Geography looks at various physical features of the world, so students with a Chromebook can comfortably research the subject in question and discover an array of visual images to further support and engage them in their learning. Miss R Begum, Teacher of Geography at The John Roan School
What’s next for John Roan School Association?
They are now looking at other ways to improve the school and the local community. Eve said “Now we know the strength of the community, we are now on a roll to see what we can achieve next.”
Since the '120 Campaign' they have started to create an edible garden in the school grounds that will be run by volunteers in collaboration with departments in the school. During lockdown they planted over 300 bulbs and now they are planning and designing the plot. The produce grown will be used in the students' food tech lessons, the art department to dye textiles as well science experiments. The gardening will be done by the students and volunteers in collaboration with the wider school community.
They’re also now producing a newsletter, which is a really positive outlook on what they’ve been getting up to. It’s reported that they were able to give an Easter egg to every member of the John Roan staff, thanks to a generous donation to JRSA from a parent. Other recent fundraising efforts have been put to good use as well – they recently were able to contribute towards several school projects including a visit for Year 9 to hear from an author, advanced graphic calculators for post 16 Maths and Further Maths students, a donation towards the Year 11 boat party so that no-one missed out due to financial constraints and Year 7 art initiatives. The team truly are #ProudToBeJohnRoan and Parentkind are very impressed with everything JRSA have achieved so far!
Eve’s top tips:
- Use your Parentkind membership - because of the Parentkind constitution and guidance, becoming a charity is easier than you’d imagine. We thought it would take ages but it only took about four weeks. You can call Parentkind’s Membership Support Team on 0300 123 5460 to discuss any aspect of your PTA that you’re not sure about!
- Don’t assume you can’t run events during lockdown, we’ve done more than ever before because people are at home and have time.
- Make your events relevant to the situation we’re in now and produce events that bring the community together and focus on wellbeing.