John Roan School Association - raising funds to bridge the lockdown learning gap

Key summary

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 £14,000 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.”

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."

PTA steps up to support pupils during lockdown

“The week we became a registered charity we launched the 120 challenge and so our charity message has been behind that as well. We’re now reaching more families and getting different families involved, spreading the message community-wide about the good things that we’re doing”. “There are 1,200 pupils in our school and many of our pupils are on pupil premium. As soon as we went into the lockdown we saw the learning divide immediately, because children didn’t have the technology to learn. Many pupils were trying to embrace the technology - but didn’t have the devices – they were writing essays on mobile phones, or they had three or four siblings in the house all fighting over the same laptop. After a few weeks it became quite apparent to the school, when they’d given out every computer they had, that something had to happen and quick.”

The 120 Campaign

john roan 120 challenge

The PTA leapt into action: “After an hour's Skype PTA meeting we managed to pull together and make a plan. The teachers, parents, students and our school community got together and created a huge campaign to 'bridge the technology gap'.

By running online events and asking staff, parents and students to challenge themselves to do something with 120 in it. Some people ran or cycled 120 miles, some made 120 cupcakes or painted 120 watercolours or made 120 flags of bunting or face masks. It’s amazing how the school came together.”

The PTA set up a 120 challenge giving page and in just one week Eve built a JRSA website to promote the challenge and help sell all the things that are being created. The school were able to approach the John Roan Foundation (a charity that supports the John Roan) for help. They agreed to match every £120 the PTA raised with another £120. On top of that, the academy agreed that for every Chromebook the PTA bought, they would buy another. “So we only had to raise £14,400 to buy 240 Chromebooks” explains Eve.

Every student in the school now has a computer and is working online. Our fundraising has really helped every family in the school, and the teachers were behind us every step of the way.

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 created an edible garden in the school grounds that was being run by a group of volunteers between lockdowns and they have planted over 300 bulbs. The produce that’s grown will be used in the students' food tech lessons and also in the art department to dye textiles.

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.

Inspired by JRSA's fundraising success? Use your Parentkind membership resources to raise your PTA's profile and get the community involved in your fundraising activities:

Fact File
  • PTA name: The John Roan School Association
  • School name: John Roan School
  • Age range: 11-18
  • Country: England
  • School type: Secondary school
  • Size: 1200

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