School arts funding: Culture and creativity

How can schools get funding for creative subjects and arts enrichment, asks FundEd editor Jane Hughes

Despite the prestige and the income (more than £111 billion a year) that the creative industries bring to the UK economy, investment in arts education has dwindled. Over the decade up to 2020, DfE figures reveal a reduction in secondary school teaching hours and teachers in creative subjects such as art, drama, music, design and technology. The issue intensified post-lockdown when many schools prioritised core academic subjects in an attempt to catch up on lost learning. This raised the prospect of a generation of children with little ‘cultural capital’.

According to the NASUWT, schools in England now face a ‘creativity crisis’, with the number of GCSE music and drama students down by a fifth over the decade. Moreover, funding for arts and culture subjects in higher education (in England) is being slashed as subsidies are funnelled into the science sector.

So how can schools get back to providing a broad and balanced curriculum, with creative subjects that provide unique educational and career opportunities, as well as supporting mental health and wellbeing? On the following pages, we explore tried-and-tested solutions, with accompanying case studies. One option is to develop a fundraising portfolio for a large project that will provide multi-layered opportunities and facilities for pupils. The second is to secure one-off grants for cultural enrichment activities that schools can build exciting learning opportunities around.

Delivering on the arts

How to build a case for support

Do your research

Hold initial discussions with your school leadership team and governors to make sure they are on board with your plans, whether that be a new theatre, art studio or multi-functional space. Work with the relevant individuals and departments at your school to bring the facts and figures on what you want to deliver together. Know how much the project will cost and how it will work. Agree a specific set of aims for the project in relation to facility improvements, pupil learning outcomes and wider cultural capital gains.

Look at the bigger picture

Can the arts space be used for different activities, possibly by subjects across the curriculum? Can you develop opportunities for it to become a community resource, thereby opening up additional grants you can apply for? Will there be opportunities for lettings to generate ongoing income once the project is completed?

Build your Case for Support

Use your research to develop a narrative around why this project is so important to the cultural capital of your school. What unmet needs does it address – and what difference is it going to make to the lives of your pupils, for instance in relation to opportunities for the performing arts, inspiring creativity, supporting wellbeing and building confidence. Gather any internal data and case studies which support this narrative, as well as relevant information from further afield, such as future study and career opportunities. Align your story with the wider vision for the school and community. This will provide you with a rich bank of resource material ready for when it comes to making grant bids.

Consider how you are going to raise funds

See the portfolio approach outlined below. Determine whether there will be any financial input from school or PTA funds that could help you apply for match funding.

Make sure stakeholders are on board

Use your case for support to communicate the potential of your arts project to school leaders, colleagues, governors and parent bodies. Ask for advice or feedback on developing key messages, and on tapping into wider networks for fundraising.

Plan the timeline of your campaign

What do you expect to achieve – and by when? If you have an ambitious end-goal, be realistic and break your campaign down into achievable phases and fundraising targets. Consider what activities you will run and when, who will be involved and the logistics. Get as many groups on board as possible – PTAs, parents, pupils, local councils, alumni, businesses, local drama groups, youth theatre organisations and suppliers.

Communicate your message

Your aim is to get everybody excited about your project and the difference it will make to your pupils. Continue to communicate as the campaign progresses, but make each message count to avoid donor fatigue. Include case studies and videos, and stress the impact that donations or other sources of financial support will have. Use your case for support to develop messages for local businesses, write articles or create videos.

How to build your fundraising portfolio


  • Research providers at both local and national level, and don’t limit yourself to those organisations that provide funding for the arts. Look for funders in your area who will be keen to support schools, young people and the community. Search for the name of your town and ‘grants’. Approach Lions and Rotary clubs, parish and district councils, as well as any philanthropic trusts you find that are specific to your area.
  • Look at the Community Foundations network, which administers grants from a range of funders to benefit causes, such as mental health and wellbeing, in local areas.
  • Organisations such as housebuilders and airports tend to have charitable foundations or spending pots to benefit communities within their area of operation. If they don’t give directly to schools they may well support a PTA, especially if it is a registered charity.


Consider using an online crowdfunding platform to coordinate your efforts, and link it to a dedicated page on your school website. Platforms such as GoodHub (formerly InvestMyCommunity) are skilled at giving advice and support in delivering a multi-faceted campaign, with linked pages for individual sponsorship pages, QR codes and instant fundraising updates. Consider a reward scheme for larger donations, with donor names being printed on programmes and publicity material or plaques.

Business and alumni

Building partnerships with local businesses who can provide sponsorship, match-funding or free equipment could bring dividends for both parties. Again, your Case for Support narrative will be hugely useful here. You can thank donors in signage and promotional material, plus you can gain advertising revenue from items such as school folders.

Alumni are another potential source of support, particularly for secondary schools who may have more recent contact details. Have any individuals gone on to careers in the arts? Are others in a position to make a donation? For information on how to build an alumni community, see the ‘Partnerships’ section on

Events and activities

Work with your PTA or equivalent, if you have one, and aim to get your whole school community involved in a fundraising programme. Look at making some of these initiatives arts related, so you are able to demonstrate the difference that creative activities can make. For instance, you could hold a talent show, craft sale or poetry performance evening. You could also ask professional performers who live locally to ‘headline’ at your events. There are lots more ideas on the ‘Fundraising success’ and ‘How to guides’ sections of our website, including running a school lottery, holding a silent auction and even selling branded gin!

Further inspiration

Join FundEd to access our database featuring over £14m of grants for schools