School budgets are becoming increasingly stretched, and balancing the emotional needs of children with their learning needs can prove a difficult balance to strike when working on a tight budget.

Many of the schools we work with find that it’s just not possible in their limited budgets to pay for emotional or psychological support services unless there is funding available from social care or pupil premium. But what about those children who do not qualify for this additional funding? Do they not deserve as much support as other children?

At Clear Sky we work really hard to fundraise £80,000 a year so that we can subsidise our therapy sessions to the schools we work with in Oxon and Bucks. We wanted to impart some of our fundraising knowledge and tips to schools who are also able to apply from funding from some trusts. We are always happy to work together to put in funding bids for partnership work that we can do together with a school. Sometimes it’s just as easy as writing a well structured letter outlining the clear needs within the school to secure a grant for Play & Creative Arts Therapy.

Writing letters and grant applications

Make sure that you outline the need. You know the children in your school better than anyone, use all the facts, figures, local data and statistics that you have at your fingertips to put together a clear, coherent case for support to funders. If you need funding for therapy for children’s emotional wellbeing here are some facts and figures that you can use related to children’s mental health:

  • 1 in 4 mental illnesses start in childhood
  • 10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness, the equivalent to 3 in every UK classroom
  • 75% of young people with a mental health problem are not receiving treatment
  • The average wait for effective treatment is 10 years, with many opportunities being missed until the situation reaches crisis point
  • Children who do not receive support early on can go on to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms including self-harm, eating disorders and alcohol/drug abuse. Suicide is the biggest killer of 5-19 year olds in England and Wales
  • Mental health problems can result in a child’s inability to function in mainstream education, leading to isolation and school dropout which puts them at further risk for increased vulnerability to high risk behaviours and situations.

Understanding why therapy is necessary

When making an approach to funders you also need to explain why therapy is so important for children early on. Not all funders will understand the complex needs of children as well as you do, so you need to really clearly outline what the impact of not providing therapy may be. Here’s some information that you might find useful to relay to funders or to other decision makers in schools.

In the UK we are in the grip of a mental health crisis. According to the Children’s Commissioner there are 800,000 children living with mental health disorders in the UK. The news recently reported that in some areas of Britain children are waiting up to 18 months to receive support for mental health issues. Teachers are facing increasing pressure to address the mental health needs of children within the school environment, and so taking responsibility for the provision of mental health of pupils puts schools back in charge of ensuring that each child gets what they need, when they need it.

Play & Creative Arts Therapy is a targeted approach to children’s mental health and wellbeing that can address a whole range of trauma, learning needs, social needs and emotional/behavioural difficulties. It provides the flexibility to work at the child’s pace and with the child’s individual needs to create a positive outcome for the individual and their family. Research shows that universal approaches are not as effective for supporting mental health challenges of children.

Through the process of therapy, children’s disruptive behaviours reduce, creating a calmer classroom environment which benefits other children’s learning experience. Children’s kind and helpful behaviour is shown to increase which can provide benefit to their peers, their siblings and parents. At home, parents feel a reduction in stress as children’s behaviour improves and concerns around mental health decrease.

There is also a wider benefit to society as a whole, as children who are mentally well go on to become integrated and contributing members of society. Individuals with mental health problems are more likely to create a burden on our health systems and to perpetuate an inter-generational cycle of poor mental health in their own children.

Play & Creative Arts Therapy is the difference for many children between permanent school exclusion and continuing mainstream education.

Making a case for additional school funding

Funders are unlikely to give money unless you can prove that there is no money in the current budget for this project. You will often be required to submit budgets and plans to prove this. Clear Sky make an annual charge to schools of £7,200 which enables 4 children to receive therapy each week. On average, children receive 18 sessions of therapy, and we typically run for 36 weeks of the school year (allowing some flexibility around Christmas, summer holidays and INSET days). On average our therapists would be able to work with 8 children who are struggling with emotional and behavioural difficulties across one academic year (in some cases we can see more children than this, and in other cases it is less, because the number of sessions required differs from child to child based on individual needs). The cost per child for a funding application is therefore around £900 per child that schools would be requesting.

Consider match funding

Schools with some budget might consider asking a funder to ‘match fund’ the cost of therapy. This means that the school will pay half, and they are requesting that the funder pays the other half. This way there are three organisations all working together to provide these supportive sessions for children – Clear Sky who subsidise and provide the therapy, school who are contributing towards the cost of therapy, and an external funder who is making the work possible.

Thank your donors

Donors really appreciate when you go the extra mile to thank them. This could involve sending pictures, case studies and letters from children/parents which prove the benefits of the good work that we have done. Remember to get permission from parents and children before you do this.

Potential funders

There is loads of advice online on how to structure and write a fundraising letter or grant application. If you’d like to talk it through with someone at Clear Sky, please feel free to call us on 01865 362789.

Now you know how to make an approach, here are a list of some funders who are happy to fund work in schools. Follow the website links to see criteria and how to apply.

Big Lottery Awards for All

BBC Children in Need Small Grants

The ASDA Foundation

WH Smith Charitable Trust

The Grants4Schools website also allows you to access a free trial and find other potential funders for projects within schools. Check it out here!