Friends group registers as charity, applies for grants and maximises the impact of their events to provide children with a much-needed new scooter shelter. This is their story.
"We have a really great team of supportive parents. As the school was growing and with a big project in mind, we felt it was time to register as a charity so we could apply for grants." Georgina, who is now chair of Friends of Bramham School – or FOBS for short – told us about how they recently took their parent group to the next level. "We adopted the Parentkind constitution which made the charity registration process quicker. It gives trusts and foundations that might only give grants to charities more confidence to work with you."
"We have a good working relationship with school – working out priorities and approaches together and supporting them to fund needed equipment and resources. We have to be smart in what we can apply for in grants."
Identifying the right project – a new scooter shelter
The school has grown significantly in recent years, and there was only an inadequate rack for bikes and scooters. "The children had wanted a scooter shelter for several years, the school council told us that," Georgina explained, after FOBS took the views of the different year groups' representatives.
When we asked Georgina if applying for grants was something she'd done before, she said no. "It's something I have learned in my role on FOBS, but I enjoy persuasive writing and dealing with figures." She said meeting potential funding providers face-to-face is important to help them get a better feel why they should support your project. "I met with the parish councils of Bramham and neighbouring Clifford and asked if they could support us in funding the new scooter shelter as it would help reduce pressure from car parking and congestion on local roads. They offered £500 each. I also approached the Wetherby Lions Group as they're very supportive in the area. We received £1,000 from them, and another £400 from the local Leeds Festival's Bramham Community Fund."
Overall, FOBS raised £2,400 from grants and a further £1,200 from organised events supported by parents in order to fund the much-wanted addition to the school.
Unveiling the new scooter shelter
"We invited representatives from each group who had supported our project to our official opening, presenting thank you cards that the children had made. Two of the school council children cut the ribbons. We were really proud seeing the end result. Having arranged for a photographer to attend, we submitted an article to the local newspaper."
Georgina told us her philosophy in approaching the role of chair: "I went to a tiny village school and it had close links within the village. I believe a thriving school helps a community prosper, and a vibrant community helps a school prosper. I try to play my part in helping this happen for my son's school."
With the school positioned in between Bramham and Clifford, people from both villages are welcome at FOBS' events. "People are interested in what we do, we host all sorts of events which are fun for children, parents and families."
A few of their community events include:
- Halloween Spooktacular – growing over a number of years and now held in the village hall. This year's event included a performance by a magician, a showcase from the dance school attended by some of the pupils, as well as spooky songs from the school choir.
- Golden Summer Fair – a celebration of the school's 50th anniversary. As well as traditional games and stalls, a display of stories, photos and newspaper clippings from over the 50 years was created, having sought the contributions from former pupils, staff and parents. Everyone enjoyed a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and raised a whopping £3,400.
- Quiz nights – full houses in the village hall, with local groups taking tables, adding to the sense of competitive spirit.
- Fun run for children – a response to the parish council's 10K event for adults which helped raise the profile of the school.
Maximising the impact of events
Georgina shared some of FOBS' great ideas which help their events to succeed.
- Community spirit: "We're keen that community groups work together because you achieve more. Everybody wants their local school to thrive and for children to have fun and opportunity. We tell people what we're raising money for, so they know why their help is appreciated. We try to put on events which people in the village want to come to, raising money from a wider source of funds than just parents at school. FOBS tries to engage in community events arranged by others too – it's for the benefit of everyone."
- Liaising with press: "We try to write an article and get it in the local newspaper to help raise the profile of the school. The newspaper's freelance photographer takes great photos! Children love seeing themselves in the paper and their parents feel so proud."
Outdoor classroom project
FOBS aren't a parent group to sit back, and they have already thrown themselves into their next project, which is to raise money for an outdoor learning area – a major project. This will see an unused area of the school grounds revitalized with a dipping pond, classroom shelter, allotment, mini-orchard, a bug hotel, and much more – allowing the children to not just observe nature, but enabling teachers to deliver any lesson in the fresh air. "By getting outside the children can put into practice concepts they've learned indoors, they can get hands on and it helps their understanding." Georgina explains.
Fundraising is already underway, and FOBS achieved a remarkable 1,000 votes within a day for their bid to the Aviva Community Fund. "We were one of the first fifteen in the country to get enough votes so that, subject to due diligence, we'll receive the £1,000 grant," How did they manage that? "Parents shared our project and bid among their friends and our local community. We have built some good links and relationships, so people wanted to be part of it and help us succeed." They have already been successful securing other grants of £4,200, including £1,200 from Diggle's First Fruits and £500 from the local Rotary Club. "When we are fortunate to receive grants we like to invite the providers to come to school so they can have a look around and meet the children. One of the representatives from the Diggle's trust is a Freemason and he went on to nominate our project to their West Yorkshire fund, and we've just received a cheque for £1,000. We showed our appreciation, and opened our doors – this approach has made a big difference to our fundraising. We still have some more funds to raise, but are hopeful and excited that the project can become a reality for the children and their teachers in the Spring of next year."
We wish FOBS all the best with this project, and with the drive and vision and winning approach to fundraising and community involvement they have, we're sure success will only be a matter of time!
"We're trying to engage the community and make everyone feel proud of what we're doing, raising the profile of the school. By putting on events that people feel part of because it's in their village, they're happy to come along and invite others." Georgina Mills, Chair of Friends of Bramham School.