Schools have been raising additional funds to plug holes for years. At The John Fisher School, a Catholic Boys’ School in Croydon, we’ve let out our sports hall, cricket nets and even classrooms for a number of years, which has helped bring in vital funds. However, with the need to generate larger sums, we looked at how we could use our breadth, rather than reduce it.
The answer lay with our local community, businesses and one key asset in particular – our parents and carers. We began by approaching local businesses, inviting them to access the captive audience that our parents and carers comprised. This is an area where schools have undervalued themselves for years. In our case, with over 2,000 parents/ carers, 100 staff and a large alumni database, we had an attractive market ready to go.
Next, we identified what we could offer to businesses in return for their support. For some, that was extra customers; for others, an opportunity to give back or boost their messaging around corporate social responsibility. We’re not talking large corporations sponsoring an academy chain here, but real interaction conducted on a weekly basis between two distinct organisations.
Choose your friends wisely
We may be in need of additional funds, but we’ve been picky in choosing which businesses to align with. It was vital to us that we chose brands we felt linked to our values and Christian ethos, and have previously turned down opportunities because of this.
We started to build a group of partners we felt a synergy with, the most notable of which is Jemca Croydon (Toyota and Lexus). The company’s socially responsible mindset links perfectly with our ethos, and they’ve provided us with a range of support including sponsorship of sports shirts, rugby balls and ancillary sports equipment. They’ve also given us access to in-house grants, supported our work experience placements, school events and a new environmental project. Our parents and staff have also benefited via discounts on new cars and services.
Our other partners include an estate agent, a photography service, a dentist and a financial services provider. These businesses are all either local or run by alumni of the school, which lets us both support our local community and maintain links with those who have left. We never duplicate partners in a given sector, and work hard to ensure that they receive access to our parents, without crossing the line.
Now, I can sense that some of you reading this might thinking, ‘We’re a smaller school’, or ‘We’re a new school with few alumni’. We’re certainly lucky in some of the ingredients we already have, but all schools can replicate much of what we do if they’re willing and happy to open themselves up to business.
If we do, are we allowing our public sector world to be muddled by private sector involvement? Or could it be the first step towards opening up the benefits of both worlds, identifying common goals and working with like-minded businesses to achieve the same outcome – giving every child access to as many opportunities as possible?
Andrew Dean is assistant headteacher at The John Fisher School.