With the school needing a new temporary structure to protect the swimming pool every five to seven years, the PTA set their minds to the ambitious project of fundraising for a permanent enclosure and pulled out all the stops to reach their target.
Identifying the project
Claybrooke Primary School has had a swimming pool on the site since the 1960s. Initially it was open air but, with the British climate being what it is, the pool was only usable for a fraction of the year.
Over the years there have been various temporary covers, each lasting only five or six years before needing to be replaced. The latest iteration was in urgent need of attention and replacing the enclosure with a similar short-term fix was no longer viable.
Ever-tightening school budgets made building a new enclosure impossible and the school was in fear of losing the pool altogether. Thus, with the support of school leaders, the PTA, consciously aware that it would be a costly exercise, took it upon themselves to find a more permanent solution.
With the Swimming Pool Enclosure project agreed, it was over to the PTA to raise the necessary £70,000...
The benefits of saving the swimming pool
As part of the National Curriculum, schools must teach children to swim a distance of 25 metres before they leave primary school. Having a swimming pool on site is a great boost to meeting that target, and it also provides children with good exercise and crucial lifesaving skills. "If children have been swimming once a week every week, there's a good chance they'll meet the standard," Claire Brunt, Treasurer of the PTA told us. With organised first aid training for parents and children helping to raise money for the new enclosure, the many benefits of the project were readily apparent.
Diving in at the deep end
Claire told us how they set about finding out how much the venture would cost. "We had quotes from a number of suppliers but we identified one who had built something similar in a nearby village. We went along and spoke to them about the pros and cons: what had gone well, what things to look out for." Every opportunity to raise money was considered. "We made about £500 on eBay for the old enclosure," Claire told us, "and the slabs it sat on went for a few hundred more. The rest of the money came from grants and fundraising."
Applying for grants
The PTA had successfully applied for a grant the previous year for new playground markings, but it was nevertheless fairly new to the process. They were encouraged by a fruitful first application, securing money from the Magna Park Community Fund, but after that they made many online applications. "It was a matter of perseverance. I set myself the target for well over a month of doing two applications per night. Every time you open a letter and there's a cheque, you see the effort paying off. We kept all of those letters and we'll give them to the school to look back on fondly in years to come." The largest donors were the Alan Edward Higgs charity and the Community Grant fund from Harborough District Council, who gave £3,500 each. The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation gave £3,000 and there were several others at £2,000 or lower.
As well as applying for grants, the PTA organised many events including:
- Sponsored mud run for adults with Santander matched giving scheme (£4,300)
- Children's mud run (£3,000)
- Charity auction (over £3,000)
- Morrison's supermarket bag pack.
"It was about raising money for the swimming pool, but if we could have some fun along the way, all the better," Claire told us about their events, before summarising what the project achieved. "It's brought everyone together and helped build important skills. We're ensuring the swimming pool is a guaranteed resource going into the future."
With the £70,000 raised, the enclosure was built, and it opened to the children at Easter 2017 with an official grand opening in July. Children can now swim all year round, even in winter.
The PTA have further plans to ensure the new swimming pool enclosure continues to generate a revenue. "We're hoping some local swimming pool instructors are going to be hiring it out which will help with some of the running costs. The children can learn to swim with them as well as doing lessons with teachers during the day. There's a couple of local schools who may use it for their swimming lessons as well because at the moment they're having to go on a bus to a leisure centre."
The key to success
We asked Claire what advice she has for other PTAs wanting to take on a project of the same scale. "Don't underestimate the size of it, or that you will need to keep at it and maintain commitment and enthusiasm for as long as it takes – in our case two years. Persevering, believing in your cause and having enough people around you to keep everyone going is the best way to get across the finishing line."
Now the PTA doesn't have to worry about renovating the pool every five to seven years, it's freed them to broaden plans for the future. We asked Claire what the PTA's focus was now. "Run events that people enjoy and that bring the community together," she told us. "They come along, have fun and feel part of it. We also want to open the pool up to the community with events like zorbing, so they can see it in action and see what they've contributed to and helped to build – hopefully then they can get some benefit from it themselves! We want people to know the PTA is there to enhance the extra-curricular side of things as well as fundraise and manage big projects. We help ensure every child's time at school is better, and we provide them with things the school budget can't pay for. Raising money for school is great – but the fun and community elements are going to be our driving forces for the next year or so."
"We see it every day when we drop the kids off to school – and I think we can be really proud of it." Claire Brunt, Claybrooke Primary School PTA Treasurer