Brief and Objectives

After a turbulent number of years at Sawtry Community College – due to a high-profile resignation and arrest of a Headteacher and his fraudulent use of school funds – the physical school and local community were in a state of disrepair – ‘staff morale and standing in the community was low’ according to Ofsted.

Well-respected local multi-academy trust, CMAT, took over the school shortly after, renaming the school Sawtry Village Academy and setting about restoring the school’s reputation and rebuilding the dilapidated building.

It was determined that the Trust would need to generate at least £2million of funding to begin this rebuild.

Athene was faced with the question: how could we turn one of the biggest individual scandals in education into a situation where we not only galvanise the support of the community to secure the future of the school, but also make it clear to people in public office that the school needs additional support and funding to restore the condition of the buildings?

Our answer to this was the New Building, Strong Future campaign, launched in September 2017 with the following objectives:

  • Generate at least £2m worth of confirmed funding – to allow the school to rebuild most troubled aspect of building
  • Secure 500 signatures on our petition
  • 100 members of the public to write to the local MP showing support
  • Achieve 500 likes on campaign Facebook page

Our goal was to make sure we get the local community onside and engaged, whilst also attracting the attention of the local community and wider decision makers (inc. MP, County Councillors and Department of Education) to the more important issue of the school’s current condition and need for funding.

This required a mixture of community and stakeholder engagement as well as managing local and national media – ensuring the voice of our campaign was heard.

Strategy and tactics

The New Building, Strong Future campaign was launched on 4th September, making use of multiple channels:

  • Media releases, statements and interviews
  • A campaign website with embedded survey/petition
  • Regular letters to the community and all local influencers
  • A Facebook campaign channel
  • Offline versions of the petition were also created in the form of a postcard

Three public meetings were also held as focal points for the campaign; one to launch, one to update the public following sentencing of the former Headteacher and a final meeting to update on funding, at which point a £2m funding agreement from Cambridgeshire County Council was announced.

Measurement and Evaluation

The success of this campaign can be measured against its core goal, to secure the £2m, but also against the wider desire to engage the local community and re-establish the trust that had been broken under the former leadership.

In light of this our objectives were achieved and in many cases exceeded:

  • 1,300 signatures secured
  • Facebook page achieved 503 likes
  • The post announcing our funding gained a 6.3k organic reach, with 2.1k clicks and 630 other engagements (likes/comments/shares)

An unexpected result was an increase in the Academy’s pupil numbers. For the first time in recent years, the number of people joining the academy in Year 7 (September 2018) has increased; showing public trust has been regained.