Castle School friends raise £20,000 in first year

January 03 2020
Castle School friends raise £20,000 in first year

A FRIENDS group founded in response to a funding crisis at Thornbury's Castle School has raised almost £20,000 in its first year.

The Castle School Friends Association was formed shortly after the BBC2 documentary series School was broadcast in the autumn of 2018, which showed the impact that cutbacks had on staff morale, buildings and resources.

Parents at Castle School were determined to do something to help and the CSF was set up to pay for essential equipment and carry out refurbishment.

Incidents over the winter a year ago, including graffiti and an arson attack in which a gazebo used as an outdoor classroom for children was destroyed, only served to galvanise parents further.

The newly formed committee decided to make their first event very visible and agreed to repaint the sports hall and changing rooms. They were overwhelmed when 60 parents and friends turned up to help and the job was completed in just an hour.

Since then the group has gone from strength to strength, winning the school an In Bloom award and supplying a huge amount of equipment.

Castle School Friends chair Sara Iles said: “I am so proud of the amount we have raised, the awards we have won, the support we have had – but most of all the community we have started to create. I feel in 2019 we turned something negative into something really positive for Thornbury and I would really like to build on this through 2020.

I can’t thank the community enough for supporting CSF and making this a success. It was such a daunting task a year ago when I realised just quite what we had taken on!”

Over the course of the year the CSF has repainted the student centre, where the pastoral care staff are based, and provided it with an improved entrance and a well-equipped sick bay, with a new bed donated by a local company. Volunteers sourced second-hand items, from office furniture to IT equipment and even a baby grand piano.  

quiz night

A Castle School Friends quiz night 

An Amazon wish list proved a huge success, with parents and friends buying thousands of pounds of basic classroom equipment, and will be relaunched this year. £3,000 of the money raised by the wide range of events organised by the volunteer committee has paid for equipment, uniform, books and trips for pupils who receive the government’s pupil premium.

Metal railings have been restored and outdoor spaces around the school have been transformed. The volunteers’ gardening efforts led to CSF teaming up with Thornbury in Bloom and being part of the winning entry for the South West in Bloom competition. Castle School Friends received a trophy and certificate for outstanding community engagement.

Sara said: “There are some goals I would like us to try to achieve in 2020 and these include securing a large grant for the school, completing the SEN garden ready for summer, and growing our volunteer community. I’ve learned everything is achievable if we work together and stay positive. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far – you are making a real difference for the students and teachers at Castle School."

Castle School Education Trust chief executive Will Roberts praised the friends groups of both schools.

He said: "We are enormously grateful to the Friends groups for their huge contributions to The Castle and Marlwood schools. The commitment of parents and the wider community to supporting the schools is greatly appreciated by our staff, and the contributions they have made over the past year have made a tangible difference to the experiences we can provide for our students.

To contact the group visit the Castle School Friends Facebook page or email enquiries@castleschoolfriends.org.