Sarah Palmer, headteacher at Camelsdale Primary School, explains how the school used Crowdfunding to help pay for the technology upgrade, which has enabled them to replace the old failing whiteboard system with the latest Clevertouch Plus interactive screens in every classroom.
Why did the school need to upgrade its existing technology?
The school has 7 classrooms with 7-year-old interactive whiteboards and projectors. The whiteboards had served the school well over the years, but now were at the end of their life and needed replacing. They weren't functioning properly, had become unreliable, and required constant recalibration, which was eating into teaching time.
Why did you come up with the idea to raise money through crowd-funding?
The school has a very active Community Partnership Group comprising parents, staff, and governors. The group was tasked with establishing and nurturing links with the local community, finding ways to enhance the children's learning experience whilst at the school.
The Group spotted the Aviva Community Award and applied on behalf of the school hoping to secure funding for the upgrade of the front of class equipment. The school received 20,000 votes – an amazing achievement for a school of just 220 pupils. We went through to the final but unfortunately missed out on the big prize – although we were awarded Â£500 towards the project.
Obviously, we were all very disappointed but also hugely motivated to find another way to get this project off the ground. We had recently seen an article about how schools were using Crowdfunding to generate income. We decided to give it a go – our first venture into community Crowdfunding.
We timed it strategically too – in the month of February, the month of love when we hoped people might be feeling more generous! But on a more practical note, the month that no one pays council tax!
Were you surprised by the amount of support and donations received?
We are a very small but very popular school and have great support in the community. So, we weren't surprised by the level of engagement. What did blow us away was that in these times of financial insecurity, the level of generosity the community afforded us, and in such a short space of time too.
Through the combined efforts of our tireless PTA and the Crowdfunding initiative, we managed to raise enough money for 6 screens, including a single large donation from a very generous anonymous donor who, having seen the efforts the school had made in securing most of the funding, helped us reach our total. Our Community Partnership Group secured funding for the final Clevertouch Plus screen from a local community grant.
Would you advise other schools to do this? If so any tips?
For any school looking to secure funding outside of the normal education budget avenues, I would strongly advise them to build good ties with their local community. We have a Community Partnership Group whose sole focus is to secure those bonds.
To make it happen you need to have a good team who are energetic, positive, entrepreneurial, and who don't accept defeat. Think strategically about how and where you are most likely to generate additional income. Have a mid to long-term strategic development plan listing your main goals and how and when you want to achieve them.
Think differently and think creatively. School leaders need to be very creative and willing to try things outside the traditional methods. Have a specific project in mind. If you're asking individuals, businesses or even applying for grants, it helps if you can pinpoint exactly what you want the money for. In our experience, the community reacts best when raising funds for something that has a positive impact on the entire school and that you can show will make a difference.
Keep abreast of the latest technology changes – we go to BETT every year which is a fantastic way to see what's coming up in the future. We first saw these screens 2 years ago at the show so we had already placed them in the school's strategic plan.
Tell us about the technology you use and how it has changed the classroom dynamic?
We now have technology that works! The previous whiteboards were prone to failing mid-lesson, requiring timely recalibration, the images were dull and some only worked in black and white – so these new screens are fantastic.
The new screens have transformed the classrooms. They are bright and colourful; the imagery is sharp and clear. The children enjoy interacting directly with the screen, which allows multiple children to use it simultaneously.
The Clevertouch Plus comes ready-loaded with lots of education resources, but at the same time teachers have been able to transfer all their old lesson plans over, nothing was lost, so there was no disruption to their teaching.
Our classrooms are quite small and the new screens are much more compact than the old over-arm projector technology. This has enabled us to free up a lot of space.
Is it important for kids to use technology in school & why?
Technology is hugely important in schools. Children have all the latest whizzy gadgets at home and to them that's normal. To avoid a digital divide between the home and school, the classroom equipment needs to be as good if not better than what they use at home.
These children are tomorrow's leaders – it's important that they have the tools to develop their own deep thinking and understanding of computing and coding.
We want our children to experience a school culture that encourages creative ideas and learning – we need to ensure we have the tools for this.
How did the children react when they saw the new Clevertouch Plus screens?
The children were very excited. They are incredibly engaged with this modern technology, which is effectively a giant tablet for them to use.
The parents were also delighted – they want the best for their children and they want their children to have access to the latest technology to give them the best chance.
Why did you choose Clevertouch Plus?
We'd seen Clevertouch Plus being demonstrated at BETT and were impressed with the functionality. It was also recommended by our installer JSPC Computer Services with whom we've worked for many years. They are a trusted education-based ICT provider looking after 200 schools in Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire and we value their advice.
Another consideration was the price – and Clevertouch, whilst not cheap, has a reasonable price-point for what it offers.
And finally, we love the Clevertouch stand, which means we can easily adjust the screen from high to low so our smallest children can use it.
Was it a smooth transition from the old to the new?
JSPC and Clevertouch made everything easy – they took the pain away. From helping us with the selection, removal of the old technology, and installation of the new, it couldn't have gone smoother.
The Clevertouch training is a must. The trainer was excellent and our teachers are quickly gaining confidence in using their new technology.