“For the past few years, we’ve run a chocolate bingo event in school,” Viki explains. “As with all schools across the country, a few weeks ago we were told that the doors would be closing to the vast majority of pupils at the end of the week.”
Viki tells us that the PTA got their heads together and decided that families in the school community might appreciate having something to occupy their time during lockdown. “We decided that we’d pop the six-game bingo books we’d already bought into children’s bookbags, so that they would go home with them on the last day of school,” she explains. “On this occasion, it wasn’t about fundraising for school: it was simply an exercise in bringing the school community together, to feel connected. We’d also asked parents to keep an eye on the PTA Facebook page for details of how the bingo games would run – although at that stage, apart from bringing the bingo number game home with me, I must confess that I wasn’t entirely sure!”
One of the first tasks was for the team to agree a series of six dates when the virtual bingo would take place: “We promoted the dates during the first week of lockdown so that everyone could pop them on their calendars, and we also ensured that families already self-isolating before the school closed received their bingo books.
Viki explains that they’d decided to run the sessions on Facebook Live, which would mean that everyone would be able to log onto the game. “We needed to keep things pretty simple in terms of running the actual games, with a prize to those winning a line or a full house.
We jumped straight in
“There was no trial run: I just made sure that my mobile phone was well positioned on a makeshift stage of board games and Lego-built phone holder, to get the camera to optimum height! I started the Facebook Live a little earlier just to check all looked ok, and was surprised – and delighted! - as families started to join immediately.”
“We’ve now held two of the six virtual games and we’re completely blown away with the number of families getting involved. I’d say it’s over 50 families who have played on both dates. The children really get into it and grow increasingly excited as the game progresses; they’re happy just to play along without reward. It’s great to see the feedback coming in whilst we play: I’ve set up the laptop so that I can see the comments and respond to them whilst we’re streaming on Facebook Live.”
Reaching out to the community
We ask Viki whether she feels that they’re reaching a wider number of families due to the current situation: “We’re definitely engaging more consistently with parents across the whole school community, so that’s really encouraging. On a similar note, it’s fantastic to see so many teachers joining in with the fun of the virtual bingo sessions too. It’s lovely for the children to hear their teachers getting involved.
“We’re looking forward to our next bingo game and have plans to introduce quiz games once all six bingo games have been played, to extend beyond May half term if needs be. It really has been a great way of building our existing relationships – and building new ones – across the whole school community.”
“Running the virtual bingo games has given us a real focus during this lockdown period. It’s a brilliant way of bringing together the whole school community – children, parents and teachers alike. With the footfall of our Facebook page increasing, we’re able to share useful posts and communicate with a growing number of families, and going beyond our ‘traditional’ fundraising role.”