The Calor Rural Community Fund supports community projects in rural areas of the country. Since it began 4 years ago, over £460,000 has been generated for 214 community projects through Crowdfunder donations and Calor contributions. One of the great winning projects from 2020 was Bitterley Primary School, with a proposal to build an outdoor classroom.
With an unloved outdoor space that was falling into disrepair, Bitterly Primary School in Shropshire knew that with some funding and some work, it could be transformed into the perfect area for their pupils to learn about nature.
In early 2020, through their own fundraising efforts and the help of a local landscaping company, the school began a garden project. With a new garden design, the space was cleared and new paths and growing beds installed. Once this was in place, the potential for further outdoor learning opportunities became clear and the idea to build an outdoor classroom came to light, but first, they needed to find a way to fund the project.
Rachel Whiteman, Chair of the PTA, otherwise known as Bitterley Friends, explains: “We hold fundraising events throughout the year such as school discos, sponsored walks and a Christmas Fayre to raise money for new projects, but with Covid-19, many of these events weren’t able to go ahead and we had to look for alternative ways of funding the project.
“We were thrilled to find out about the Calor Rural Community Fund and excited that it could offer us the perfect opportunity to try and reach our funding target.”
Bitterly Friends heard about the Calor Rural Community Fund through a friend who had been involved with Corvedale Centre for Children. This was a winning project from 2019, which aimed to create a vegetable, herb and wildlife garden at their nursery, pre-school and children’s centre, with the intention of growing fresh produce which would be used in the children’s school dinners. After seeing how beneficial the Rural Community Fund could be to community projects such as this, Bitterly Primary School put together their own application for 2020.
The first stage of the Rural Community Fund process involves setting out the aims of the project to encourage public engagement through crowdfunding. Once the projects are shared on the Rural Community Fund website, every like, share and donation to a project is worth points that accumulate at the end of this stage. The highest scoring projects in each funding category (£5,000, £2,500 and £1,000) then go through to the finals where they’re scored by a panel of impartial judges. The school had never utilised crowdfunding before and were blown away by an influx of support from their local community.
“After submitting our successful application, the children’s families began sharing and donating to the project, and from there, word began to spread across the whole local community, who really got behind it. We raised over £2,000 in donations from the initial crowdfunding before receiving the amazing news that we had won the £5,000 grant from Calor. This was incredible as we then knew we would be able to make this project a reality.” said Rachel.
She continued: “The extra boost from the crowdfunding not only gave us additional financial support, but also helped involve the community in the project. This is one of the best things about the Calor Rural Community Fund, because even the projects that don’t receive one of the main grants, still get a boost of support”.
After receiving the £5000 grant from Calor, the school were able to begin building the outdoor classroom in addition to an outdoor kitchen, with a hand washing station and a new roof over the clay oven that was built by pupils of the school over 10 years ago.
The final steps
Rachel continued: “The project took just over a year to complete. We finished during the 2021 Easter holidays and thanks to the funding we received from Calor, it was ready for the long-awaited return of the children once Covid restrictions began to ease.
“Just some of the benefits the school has seen from the new outdoor classroom include providing much needed extra classroom space, creating new learning opportunities about the environment, nature and food provenance, in addition to developing skills like teamwork and problem solving in a more engaging environment.
“The classroom is also the perfect centre point for the school and can be used for new after school clubs such as forest school and gardening club. It’s the perfect way for pupils to readjust to normal school life with a stimulating environment to learn in.”
After such a positive reaction, Bitterly Primary School plans to continue adding to its outdoor space and carry on providing new experiences and ways of learning for their pupils. The school was over the moon to have received the £5,000 grant and would encourage any rural community projects looking for additional support and funding to get involved.
To see how this years’ Rural Community Fund is going and to learn more about the projects, visit: communityfund.calor.co.uk