Diary of a fundraiser - Amanda Burgess

Amanda Burgess, community liaison and income generating manager at Priory School in Lewes, goes with the flow in a summer term of planning, cancellations and rescheduling

April

We had planned a ‘Spring into Lewes’ nature festival, for which I’d secured a grant of £100 from the Linnean Society. This family event was to take place between Priory School and the local nature reserve, but with Covid-19 restrictions still in place we decide to move it online. Our PTA (Friends of Priory) creates a web page with downloadable resources, competitions, a talk and links to other activities to keep the whole family busy.

A local church kindly donates Easter eggs for all our staff, as a thank you for keeping things going. Each egg has a handwritten label, creating a real buzz in the staff room!

I submit an ‘expression of interest’ form to East Sussex County Council for funding to run a summer school. I also make an application to the Police Property Fund for support towards a residential trip next year for 20 Year 10 vocational students. The trip is to Jamie’s Farm, near Lewes, which works with schools to support vulnerable young people who are at risk of social or academic exclusion.

We send out our regular whole school ‘committed to giving’ letter, encouraging our families to sign up as regular donors to the school fund.

May

I submit applications to the Fontwell Foundation and Blue Spark Foundation (local and regional grant givers) for funding towards the Jamie’s Farm residential trip, which will cost £7,000. The grant advisor at Fontwell calls to ask about my application and asks to be kept updated with the outcomes of our other applications. We receive welcome funding from our PTA and the local Police Property Fund towards the trip, but we still have a shortfall of £4,000. After a few phone calls and email exchanges, the Fontwell trustees make up the shortfall to ensure this trip can be booked. We are incredibly grateful for their support.

The local council approves our application for funding towards a summer school. It requests copies of policies and procedures, which will take a long time to pull together!

We receive an offer from Speakers 4 Schools to host a virtual talk with the CEO of Brighton and Hove Football Club during Careers Week. This is enthusiastically received by the staff who also happen to be fans of the club!

Friends of Priory begin planning a barbecue in the school field for Year 7 students and their families in July. We continue to plan for our leavers’ prom, hoping it can go ahead.

June

I have to reschedule prom when we hear the easing of restrictions will be delayed by a month. I quickly contact the hotel and secure a new date – fingers crossed!

Planning for summer school gets under way. I liaise with the primary feeder heads and the lead teachers for transition to help identify those students who are most likely to struggle in the move from primary to secondary school. I start to book in activities and a trip to our local castle – this year it has funding to provide free workshops, so we quickly accept that offer. The summer school staffing is put in place and we look at everyone’s skills, areas of expertise, interests and training to ensure we are fully covered for first aid, food hygiene and so on.

Parents start to contact me to see our second-hand uniform stock. I make the appointments for after school as we still limit the amount of people coming in. There have been fewer opportunities for me to display or promote the uniform this year, but the need is even greater.

‘I hold a second-hand uniform sale and I’m rushed off my feet. I have to call for help from a colleague!’

July

Our New Parents’ Workshop is cancelled, but Parents Meet the Tutor is able to go ahead as it’s on July 19, when restrictions are eased. I hold a second-hand uniform sale and find myself rushed off my feet as parents enthusiastically grab a bargain. I have to call for help from a colleague!

Prom becomes a logistical nightmare as we wait to hear if restrictions will be relaxed. When they are, it’s full steam ahead trying to ensure all the final elements are in place. We liaise with the hotel, gather dietary and medical information for the risk assessment, organise decorations, a DJ, security, photographer and so on.

The evening arrives and we wait for the students to turn up in their finery and array of vehicles. They don’t disappoint and this year we even have a tractor! The students dance the night away in a stunning setting to our own Priory DJ. It feels magical after the previous 18 months, and a fitting end to their five years of education at Priory.

The summer school is our final activity of the academic year. We welcome those pupils who have been identified as anxious about moving up to secondary school. We have a great staff team and an exciting programme of activities to keep them engaged, ranging from a treasure hunt, science extravaganza and cooking, to Forest School/nature space, tennis, local visits, and a ‘whodunnit’ with our police liaison. The final event is a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, a celebration of the week’s activities which families are invited to attend. Seeing the difference this week has made to anxious new pupils is a heartwarming way to end the term.

 

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