Much of today’s education revolves around tests and examinations, but it’s important that children get the chance to learn and play outdoors too. There are various ways that schools can access funding to help build gardens, playgrounds and sensory areas for their pupils to enjoy, though most routes involve applying to a charitable organisation. In some cases products might be gifted; for others, schools and educational institutes will need to raise a proportion of the funds to put towards the project.
Trees, Gardens and Nature
Encouraging children to spend time outside and understand the intricacies of nature is important. As such, there are a number of organisations that provide help with plants and free trees for schools.
- The Woodland Trust
Woodland Trust grants for free trees are available every year, normally in March and November to fall in line with the optimal planting times. Schools can apply for packs of 30, 105 or 420 saplings which can be planted, not only for educational purposes but to encourage more wildlife into school grounds. You can apply every season for new trees too, with no current limit in place.
- Dobbies in the Community
You may have heard of Dobbies Garden Centre, but you may not know they also run a national campaign called “Here We Grow”, the aim of which is to get communities creating gardens and greening up public spaces. You need to contact your local Dobbies Garden Centre and discuss your project with their Community Champion.
- Elspeth Thompson Bursary
Set up in memory of Elspeth Thompson, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) provide a bursary to financially support community projects and help people learn horticultural skills; an ideal opportunity for education. The project is ongoing, though the closing date is December 31st each year, with funding decisions made the following February. You can out more about this scheme here.
Funding for Playgrounds
Playgrounds form an important role in any child’s life, not only as a place to have fun but to form social connections with friends and acquaintances too. However, even extending a playground can be expensive, and developing a brand new area can cost thousands of pounds. As with bringing nature into your school, there are many charities across the country that can offer financial aid and help you fundraise to give pupils a place they can be safe and have fun.
- Playground Partnerships
Organised by the Kids First Trust, Playground Partnerships is a scheme to help schools improve their outdoor spaces. This is ideal if you’re looking to repair or extend an existing space. Any project that’s shortlisted could look forward to a grant of £10,000. However, even if it fails at this stage, a school will receive £250.
- Energy Boost
Energy Boost is a funding initiative run by the EDF Energy School Grounds Awards Scheme. If your school wants to create an outdoor playground that uses sustainable products and techniques (the use of renewable materials, for example) this could be an ideal option. The scheme has a Sustainability Prize of £6,000 which is awarded to projects that demonstrate an eye for sustainable and educational developments.
- Learning through Landscapes (LtL)
LtL is a national school grounds charitable organisation who aim to help schools and childcare facilities improve their outdoor spaces. At the moment, there are no new initiatives for funding but the company often adds new partners, many of whom offer funding of their own. As such, it’s a good idea to monitor the LtL website.One example of a successful scheme is the John Laing School Grounds Award. Primary and secondary schools were offered the chance to win £3,000 by demonstrating projects that involved parents, staff, pupils and governors for both formal and informal education.
Sensory Rooms and Outdoor Equipment
For schools needing equipment catering to more specialist needs, sensory tools and rooms are often required. These cater towards people who may have sensory, learning or physical disadvantages. Again, there are numerous charities across the UK who can offer both advice and financial support.
- The Lord Taverners
Primarily known for their distinctive minibus services, the Lord Taverners also provide financial support for soft play, outdoor play and sensory equipment. If you’re planning to apply for funding, you’ll need to show your ‘Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults Protection and Safeguarding Policy’.The grants are available to schools and clubs who help people under the age of 25 with disabilities, though mainstream schools that have pupils displaying behavioural problems can also apply. For outdoor play spaces, the Lord Taverners can offer up to 80per cent of the play equipment costs.
- Wooden Spoon
Based in Rugby, Wooden Spoon is a charity aiming to improve the quality of life for young adults and children with social, mental or physical disadvantages. Previous funding has been awarded to sensory garden and soft play room projects.
- True Colours Trust
This trust offers one-off grants of up to £10,000 to small organisations and schools. Members of the True Colours Trust keenly support multi-sensory rooms, making them an ideal prospect if you’re looking for sensory garden equipment funding or something similar.
Fund from a Variety of Sources
If you’re trying to get money for sensory play equipment, playgrounds or gardens, then the key message is not to give up. Whilst there is little in the way of public funding for such developments, there are a whole host of charities who could help. Combined with fundraising activities by schools themselves, ideas can blossom into exciting projects the whole community can get behind.