Rocket Fund is a crowdfunding platform for schools, designed to enable more students access the latest technology, while giving teachers the opportunity to find out what works in the classroom.
It aims to give schools the opportunity to raise money from local businesses and the wider community, in order to try new technology that would be beyond the reach of their budgets, such as VR headsets and 3D printers. After the schools have used the products for a few months, we ask for a review to help other teachers choose in the future.
Why are we doing this?
Digital technology has the potential to transform education, either by increasing educational attainment, saving teachers time or enhancing pupil experience. But in many schools it is not being harnessed to its full potential, and in many other schools it’s not being used at all.
As a result, many pupils are being poorly prepared for the world they’ll enter when they leave school. According to a report (“The Digital Skills Crisis”) published in 2016 by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills, costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in lost GDP. Furthermore:
- 22 per cent of IT equipment in schools is ineffective
- The UK needs another 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017
- And, 90 per cent of jobs require digital skills to some degree
According to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), the average ICT budget for a primary school is forecast to be £13,800 in 2017/18 and £58,230 for secondary schools. This is a decline on last year of 4 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. With overall school budgets forecast to be cut by 8 per cent by 2020 (according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies), pupil exposure to innovative technologies is likely to remain limited.
After looking around for solutions, we discovered Donors Choose - a crowdfunding platform for schools in the US, that has helped raise over $550m. We realised there is currently no easy way for schools to raise money online in the UK, so we are working with Donors Choose to bring the concept to the UK.
What are we doing?
Rocket Fund enables teachers to try technology that is beyond the budget of the school. After teachers have used this technology for a few months, we then ask for a review and case study to help other teachers choose and use technology in the future.
We are running the pilot in phases:
- From December 2016 to January 2017, we supported 10 schools through the fundraising process
- They spent one month fundraising, then we purchased and sent the equipment to their schools
- 70 per cent of projects managed to hit their target, thanks to 162 donors giving between £5 to £500 each
- Nesta provided £3,000 of match funding and the schools raised a total of £8,000
- Our second phase ran from June 2017 to July 2017, with 35 schools
- To help the schools reach their goals, Nesta and five businesses (Jisc, Mint Digital, pi-top, Busuu and Croud) provided match funding
- Campaigns ranged from raising funds for a portable recording studio for a school radio show, to Chromebooks to enable flipped learning and spy cameras to monitor local wildlife
- 70 per cent of the schools hit their targets, raising a total of £34,000
So far we’ve helped raise £42,000 for 31 schools, potentially benefitting 12,500 students.
We’re currently working to build a coalition of partners to help us scale this project nationwide and beyond. If you’d like to help close the digital skills gap, by enabling all schoolchildren to access the latest technology, then please get in touch: [email protected]