Tree-mendous Go Ape 'PTA Challenge' unites whole school community

Key summary

A sponsorship day out at Junior Go Ape brings the whole school community together, building team spirit and raising funds at the same time.

The PTA Challenge

The PTA at Great and Little Shelford Primary School in Cambridgeshire like to have fun, and their recent second annual PTA Challenge was no exception. “We have a brilliant team of people including ten on our committee. We work well together,” Charlie Russell, the chair, explains. She’s been in the role since 2015 and introduced the annual PTA Challenge, which is a sponsorship fundraiser involving physical exertion.

This year, wanting to include the children as well, they booked a Junior Go Ape day at a local centre. “We knew we wanted to do a sponsored event, because they raise quite a lot of money and they’re a great way to get everybody involved,” Charlie explained. “I pitched Junior Go Ape to the committee and the head teacher, and they thought it was a good idea. Having decided on the challenge, we worked with Go Ape’s corporate department. They gave us a lot of flexibility, such as adding to final numbers, as right up until the day we had more people wanting to get involved. The staff were incredible from our initial inquiry through to putting us in our harnesses on the day.” Charlie points out another benefit for PTAs. “Though the committee organised the event, on the day we could sit back and relax because Go Ape staff take over and are responsible for all the safety. It was great to have committee members and their families actually taking part and enjoying a PTA event because everything else is taken care of – it’s a low-maintenance fundraiser!”

Spreading the word

The key to the success of the day was getting people involved. Charlie explains how they drummed up support. “We placed details in the school newsletter and in the staffroom, and used the advertising board at the front of the school. To let other parents know, we also emailed each class group. We kept it open so that people could continue expressing an interest in taking part, and once parents saw the numbers creeping up, it snowballed. There was soon a buzz around it!” Not only that, but the PTA played the ace up their sleeve - their sandwich board. "One of our mums is very artistic and she creates adverts. It's our main publicity tool! Her work is always the talk of the school and it's been a great purchase." That's what we call the 'talk of the chalk'!

On the day, 145 took part, though just as many parents and siblings turned up to watch and shout their encouragement. 

The school goes ape

“We had everyone including the head teacher and deputy, the dinner ladies, teaching assistants, teachers, committee members, children and the school bear (which raised over £600 in sponsorship alone thanks to Matched Giving from local solicitor’s Woodfines) taking part on the course. The kids loved seeing their teachers flying through the sky. The cheering for the teachers and for each other and for parents was great. The head teacher got the biggest cheer because she had a terrible fear of heights! She had written in the school newsletter that it was going to be a big thing to overcome that. A lot of her friends and family members had sponsored her. She went all out to raise money for her school. We were so glad she went that extra mile though, because with the head involved, it shows that the whole school community is working together.”

Raising money through sponsorship

The PTA Challenge raised welcome funds for the school. All those taking part were sponsored by friends and family. Donations could be made online through the PTA’s BT MyDonate page, but Charlie told us, “We did it the old-fashioned way too, with printed sponsor sheets for those who preferred that, so that they could be taken to neighbours and grandparents.” Altogether, more than £3,000 was raised. 

The school community bonds

“It was a really good community event,” Charlie summed up. While the money raised was a great achievement, the day was a terrific success for another reason. “More than anything the experience really brought us together as a school community. There was a lovely sense of camaraderie on the day with children and adults all supporting each other and cheering one another on.” With so many people turning up, it was a great way to mingle. “It was a very relaxed environment for people to just chat,” Charlie explained. “It really brought parents together who might not have met each other before.”

The legacy of the fundraiser

The money raised by the PTA will provide the first ever set of iPads for the school. “Parents like to know what you’re raising money for. They’re more likely to sponsor you if they know what the money would go towards,” Charlie suggests.

Next year's PTA Challenge

As you may expect from a PTA that does everything with energy, enthusiasm and commitment, they already have a few ideas for next year’s PTA Challenge, and Charlie tells us a few before quickly adding, “Whatever we end up doing, it will be something that we can all do together.”

And now for something completely different...


Using the skills of one of the PTA mums who is a dab hand at editing, the committee filmed a skit of the Active Wear video which they used during a quiz night money-spinner. You can see for yourself that they’re a group that not only likes to have a good time but finds creative ways of putting ‘fun’ into ‘fundraising’. Take a look at their video below!

"When a big group of people with a common goal get together, it’s quite powerful. The best fundraisers are where everybody’s working together." Charlie Russell, PTA Chair.

  • PTA used their annual challenge to foster team spirit and relationship building among parents, teachers and children.
  • Activity involved PTA members, staff, the head and parents as well as the children, and was enjoyed by all generations. 
  • Local firm of solicitors match-funded the school bear mascot. 
  • PTA approaches events with fun and energy.

Fact File
  • PTA name: Great and Little Shelford Primary School PTA
  • School name: Great and Little Shelford Primary School
  • Age range: 4-11
  • Country: England
  • School type: Primary
  • Size: 205

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