How to successfully fundraise for outdoor classrooms

With budgets being ever tightened, schools are increasingly having to look at alternative ways and means of how they fund their outdoor learning programmes and playground projects. But we have built up a lot of knowledge and experience in helping schools find the necessary ways and means of successfully doing this.

But you need to be prepared to put in the effort as without pain, there never is a gain!

Our approach would be to spread your net widely over various ways of raising money so that you are thereby reducing your risk of failure if one doesn’t work out. Here is the plan you need to follow:

  • Apply for a grant. There are various grants out there which will support and fund capital items such as outdoor classrooms and we know which ones to approach and how to approach them. You need to remember that bid writing is incredibly competitive (especially in this financial climate) and time consuming but we can offer you experience-backed advice as to what you need to do in order to be successful
  • Get a crowd funding site up and running. Organisations and schools are increasingly looking at this medium to publicise their project to the local community and beyond. There are now specialist educational crowd funding websites which do not charge but which give you a great platform to promote your project. These websites offer you an opportunity to use video too as an effective medium
  • Be entrepreneurial. Schools are now renting out their premises to generate extra income – before and after school clubs, functions at the week-end and even weddings! The Hideout House outdoor classrooms can also be used for outdoor weddings for example and don’t forget weddings are big business. You just need to apply to the local registrar office for a license to conduct civil service ceremonies. Think too about fitness classes and renting out your sports facilities to local clubs and societies
  • Corporate sponsorship or donations are also a good source of funding. But you need to put some effort in and think like a business. Our local village school sent a flyer round recently asking for money for a bus they wanted to buy at £30K – that is all it said. No mention of what is was going to be used for or how it would benefit the school and children. You need to sell this if you are going to be asking for money – another way would be to ask for set amounts which are easily affordable rather than just saying you want £30K for example.
  • PTA events which a lot of schools do anyway. But make them a little bit more creative and fun otherwise apathy will soon set in from both the PTA and parents. We have developed quite a few creative ideas

If you would like to know how we can help you raise money for outdoor classrooms or any playground project you have in mind (and tell you about all the schools we have already helped), then please contact us on 01865 858982 or email:

What is the single most effective way of utilising pupil premium funding?

There is of course one fundamental issue that affects every other aspect of every child’s education: the child’s level of literacy.

The problem is that once a child at primary school starts to slip behind it can be difficult to tailor instruction towards individuals within a group.  What each child then needs is help and support in his/her specific areas of difficulty.

At this point a highly accurate and rapid system of placing pupils according to their current literacy ability is required, which precisely notes the progress they are making day by day.

But every school needs this analysis, without it taking up more of that most precious resource: time.

One particularly effective solution to this problem is to implement an auto-placement approach which analyses individual ability level and reveals exactly what each student needs to be focussing on in order to ensure literacy progress is achieved.

Then, if the pupil can have one-to-one tuition in a way that is utterly engaging and responsive to her or his immediate literacy needs and within the school’s budget, the issue is resolved.

All of this can be done using Core5 from Lexia.  The analysis, the comparisons with other pupils, the progress, the remedial work – each and every element of a student’s learning journey is tracked and evaluated by Core5.

If you would like to read the case studies involving UK schools which are already using the system please click here. You will then also find on the right of the page the route to having access to the full program for 30 days without any payment or commitment.

If you want to know more about the program, we have all the information you’ll need available here. Alternatively, if you would like to talk first, call 0191 482 1939, or email

Rob Kay

LexiaUK Software Consultant

Drive not included

What are the legal requirements for operating a school minibus?

A school minibus can be not only expensive but also hugely time-consuming for the person responsible for ensuring that it is fully operational at all times, which is why a growing number of schools are signing up to a minibus leasing contract with Benchmark.

Indeed, leasing a school minibus from Benchmark not only makes financial sense but also means that we assume responsibility for keeping the vehicle properly maintained and roadworthy.

The leasing arrangement makes it possible for schools to fund the minibus through a small payment each month, and, where trips are paid for by contributions from parents and the PTA, it is possible to allocate a part of those payments towards the cost of the minibus – thereby reducing the amount of money the school has to find each month.

And your colleagues will no longer have to spend time ensuring that the school minibus is fully operational at all times as the team at Benchmark will organise for the vehicle to be MOT’d, serviced and repaired* – all of which is included in the lease price.

Unfortunately, however, there is something that we can’t provide and that is the driver. But this is not to say that we can’t help out.

You can find a number of documents covering the legal requirements for operating a school minibus at and

At these links you will find:

For more information about leasing a minibus with Benchmark Leasing you can go to our website, call us on 01753 859944 or email

History Summer School 2017

The study of history is about a lot more than facts and dates. Questions of the possibility of historical truth, the methodology of its pursuit and the political responsibilities of historians to both the past and the future are central to the craft of the historian. This course offers the chance to explore these and other historiographical questions using some fascinating (and sometimes weird and wonderful) case studies.

The Debate Chamber History Summer School will be of particular benefit to those students who are considering the study of History, or a related subject, at university. This intensive course will be conducted through seminars, lectures, structured activities and informal discussions, in order to create a genuine sense of what studying history at undergraduate level is like. The topics covered over the five days have been specifically selected to challenge and broaden the historical outlook of participants and as such the course requires no specific previous background knowledge (although students are encouraged to bring their own examples to the questions addressed) and is open to all students aged 15-18. The most important qualification is a strong enthusiasm for history!

The Summer School offers students the opportunity to develop their historical studies by tackling areas of study not often covered by the school curriculum. By exploring new and ambitious topics, students will be challenged to confront the unexamined assumptions underlying their interpretations and to develop their analysis of primary and secondary source materials. The course offers students the opportunity to gain a good basic understanding of a broad range of historiographical trends and subject matters, and as a result, students will not only be well equipped make informed decisions about studying history at university, but will enjoy the challenge of being presented with new ideas, and benefit from having their own thoughts critically examined.

Our approach to tuition is varied – lively tutorial discussions, formal debates, lectures, group presentations and close individual reading of primary and secondary source material. Special emphasis is given to developing students’ skills as critical readers at an undergraduate level, by analysing extracts and quotations, as well as images, material sources and oral accounts. Participants will be supported in formulating and presenting their own viewpoints clearly and logically and be encouraged to challenge one another’s positions in a constructive and friendly atmosphere. Class sizes of 14 students per group allow us to give each student plenty of individual attention and useful feedback.

You can view a full schedule for the course, details of tutors and lots more feedback from last year on our website –

Feedback from Previous Summer Historians:

Before the History Summer School, I had no idea what studying history beyond the facts could be like. After the summer school, thanks to the brilliant tutors and the challenging curriculum, I have a much more in-depth knowledge of the various theories behind historical study and what it is like to further study history. I’d recommend this Summer School to anyone who has even the slightest interest in history, it was probably the most informative and interesting 5 days of my life!

For me, this course was originally planning to be a sort of wake up from the summer. However, the five non-stop history filled days that we were given meant I didn’t just turn on my brain, I excited it: critically looking at intriguing sources. Due to the huge scope of the course, no matter where your interest is you’re bound to come away with a new one. Then too, the lecturers/teachers provided entertaining and enlightening commentary on the sources and historical events that we covered. Discussion amongst the group was always flowing and I was always left with something bubbling in my mind at the end of the day.

You just really need to go, it has changed my outlook on History and my passion for the subject ten-fold!

I would certainly recommend this Summer School to anybody interested in studying history further. The five days covered a large range of subjects and the tutors were very informative, fantastic at helping everyone be involved in discussions. There was a great atmosphere in the sessions and I felt comfortable contributing. I am really glad I attended.

Practical Details:

This Summer School takes place on the 10th-14th July (and repeated 24th – 28th July and 29th August – 2nd September), the venue will be the University of London Bloomsbury Campus. The course fees are £475 per student.

There is a limited amount of bursary funding available for students who would otherwise have financial difficulty in attending – please see our website for details.

To book a place please visit, call us on 0845 519 4827, or email Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Body cameras to be trialled in the education sector

The effectiveness of body cameras being used in the classroom is to be trialled by teachers at two schools in the UK, according to a report by the Times Education Supplement (TES).

Both of the unnamed schools have already started to look at early ideas into how they will implement the technology, with an initial idea being that teachers will wear the cameras on their clothes and the technology will be filming continuously.

However, teachers wearing the equipment would be required to activate a switch on the devices for incidents to be recorded and encrypted footage to be saved. As such, wearers of the technology are being encouraged to only switch their cameras to recording mode when ‘low-level’ incidents are developing. Furthermore, they have also been told that they will need to give notice before beginning a recording.

Tom Ellis, a principal lecturer at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at Portsmouth University, explains: “There’s very much an emphasis on getting rid of low-level disruption or disorder in the classroom.”

A similar move has already been implemented in schools across the US, while two UK police forces have also pioneered their own technique for using body cameras — see more details about this particular development by clicking here.

In regards to introducing body cameras in the classroom, Mr Ellis is confident that the technology can act as a deterrent. He expanded: “It can be used for self-reflection. It can be shown back to the pupil, one-on-one, and that can have a positive impact without the need to resort to disciplinary process.”

The trial already has a lot of support too, as evidenced by a TES poll which was reported on by the Independent.

According to the survey of over 600 teachers, 37.7 percent expressed that they were in favour of body cameras being used in the classroom. Around two-thirds also expressed that they would feel safer in their working environment thanks to the technology, while 10.9 percent were confident that the equipment will become compulsory in the future.

Body cameras may be a relatively new concept in the UK’s education sector, but the following examples showcase that CCTV systems have already been introduced in schools across the county in an effective manner:

  • Video Content Analysis systems, so that analysis of CCTV images can be carried out to provide meaningful information. For example…
  • The identification of whether objects have been removed from a certain area of the school.
  • The analysis of CCTV images in order to identify specific patterns, like smoke when addressing arson attacks.
  • The ability to establish virtual tripwires that trigger an alert, should someone attempt to cross a specific boundary – eliminating the need to erect walls or fencing at these locations.
  • CCTV in classrooms to address issues of bullying and also assist with teacher training — for the latter, this technology can be used as an alternative to having a teaching colleague present in the classroom throughout the entire lesson.
  • Access control systems, such as those provided by award-winning security specialist 2020 Vision, are specifically designed for educational establishments, so that security personnel can keep updated about who is in a facility once they have been added to turnstiles, gates and barriers throughout the institute.


What’s better than Facebook?

The answer is, of course, a real book!

A book that gives school and college leavers a snapshot of their final year and can be cherished for many years to come, if Facebook and Whatsapp go the way of MySpace and Friends Reunited…

The final year at school or college is always pivotal in everyone’s life. Why not make a record of it that lasts and lasts with fantastic quality yearbooks from Babyshark from only £3 each?

Unlike many online retailers that you can’t talk to, we are the online yearbook company that actually wants to talk to you. We can even arrange free Yearbook Design Workshops, so get in touch now!

Click here or email to request a free sample.

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Kind Regards

Andrew Baker

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01924 849926

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Leys Lane

Registered in England No. 6913248

7 good reasons why a yearbook can’t be replaced by Social Media…
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