Finding the best freebies for your school

Rachel Gordon

Rachel Gordon heads up the School Funding Service, which helps schools across the UK win grants for a wide range of projects, from playgrounds and sports equipment, to after-school clubs and extended services. She writes bids for schools and advises them on how to maximise their funding potential.

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This article originally appeared in the September 2012 Innovate My School magazine.

It’s a familiar problem: you want to start a new project at your school, but there’s no money for the equipment or services you need.

Don’t dust off the rolling pin for a fundraising cake sale just yet. Believe it or not, you may be able to get what you need for nothing!

Organisations across the country give thousands of free items to schools and allow them to use facilities and professional services without charge. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Over the years, schools have received all sorts of freebies: from maps, books, cereals and giant chess sets to hedges, telescopes and even trees!

How can we get all this stuff?

The internet is the best place to start. Large organisations and companies often provide online application forms which schools can complete to receive free items, arrange trips to a company’s premises or use its facilities. Local businesses may also be keen to help, particularly if you’re looking for something specific; it’s usually best to contact them by phone or visit their offices.

If you don’t really know what you need - or even if you don’t have a particular project in mind - looking at what’s available can provide inspiration. Free seeds? Perhaps the school could start a gardening club. Complimentary palettes and easels? Maybe pupils could create a mural in the school grounds.

To help you get started, here are my six favourite schemes that provide free products and services for schools.

B&Q Waste Donation Scheme

Every B&Q store in the country operates a “waste donation scheme” whereby waste materials, such as slightly damaged tins of paint, off-cuts of timber, odd rolls of wallpaper and end-of-range materials, are donated to schools, community groups and charities. Contact your local B&Q store to apply for the scheme.

The Big Tidy Up

Keep Britain Tidy helps schools and community groups tackle local litter problems by enabling them to organise “Big Tidy Up” events. When your school registers, it will receive a free “Big Tidy Up” kit, which includes tabard bibs, posters, stickers, and a safety guide. You can download certificates from the website for pupils who take part in the tidy up, and free lesson plans are available for primary and secondary school teachers.

Community RePaint

Community RePaint redistributes surplus tins of paint to charitable and community projects across the country. This is ideal if you are thinking about redecorating a classroom or painting a mural in the school playground. Use the postcode checker on their website to find your nearest “RePaint” scheme.

Free School Trips to English Heritage Sites

English Heritage offers free admission to all of its historic sites for schools and educational groups. Its portfolio of over 400 locations includes prehistoric sites, Roman towns, medieval castles and abbeys, industrial mills and Victorian houses.  All are fantastic settings for memorable history lessons and outdoor learning activities. Teachers and education leaders are granted free entry to carry out a planning and familiarisation visit before the main trip. Free resources, including teaching ideas and activities designed by English Heritage, are available for use before, during and after the school’s visit.

Potatoes for Schools

Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) began in 2005 and has become one of the largest school vegetable-growing projects around. Schools that register to take part receive a free potato-growing kit, which contains two grow bags, seed potatoes, a rain-catcher with water spout, an interactive classroom weather poster, and lesson plans and worksheets. The potato growing kit contains everything you need to grow a successful crop.

Free Musical Instruments and Training

The EMI Music Sound Foundation provides up to £2,000 funding for - among other things - musical instruments and training music teachers. The application form requires schools to explain why they need funding and what they intend to use it for."

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