Embedding Comic Relief across the curriculum

Written by: HTU | Published:

With Comic Relief approaching, headteacher Emma Higgins explains why and how her school makes charity fundraising an integral part of the school year and how it can tie in to the curriculum

When looking through our school's financial information for last year, two sets of figures got me thinking.

The first was unsurprising in these straitened times: the balance for trips and visits showed a deficit of nearly £2,000. With so many families struggling financially, voluntary contributions to activities are inevitably going to drop. The second made me smile – our charity fundraising efforts for the same period totalled £3,000.

Of the three primary schools in Knaresborough, ours has the most mixed socio-economic make-up, with around 12 per cent of children eligible for free school meals. Just under 15 per cent have SEN (12 have statements) and we have a number of vulnerable children.

Our families may be struggling to contribute to school trips, but they still managed to find money for causes such as the British Heart Foundation, Children in Need, Walking with the Wounded, and Sport Relief. I couldn’t help but be delighted by what these figures show about our school.

In the words of our last Ofsted inspection: “The exceptional way in which each child is cared for and nurtured reflects the real warmth and care that radiates from everyone.” I like to think that the fundraising we do for charity is a visible manifestation of this.

Keeping it simple

Fundraising activities are an integral part of our school year. As well as taking part in large-scale, national campaigns, such as Children in Need and Red Nose Day, we organise ad-hoc fundraising in response to local need and issues that touch the children’s lives. Often it is the children themselves who lead the way, coming up with ideas for charities they want to support and activities to organise. Fundraising is a regular agenda item at school council meetings, with children championing their favourite causes.

The fundraising activities tend to be the stock favourites – non-uniform days, cake sales, sponsored runs, discos. This is so not to be too costly for parents, but also because we believe that by keeping it simple children are less likely to lose sight of the purpose of what they are doing. We hope that it is their understanding of the underlying issues that motivates them to give.

Curriculum starting points

We incorporate learning about the issues that charities tackle into our curriculum. In the case of a major fundraising initiative like Red Nose Day, the event becomes a mini-theme that is the focus for a week’s worth of learning. Our child-centred, theme-based curriculum gives us the flexibility to do this.

Teachers ask their pupils to suggest topics and questions they would like to explore. They then create a theme plan, mapping the aspects of the curriculum that can be covered within the theme and highlighting learning objectives. An event like Red Nose Day is an easy option – it is a ready-made theme that engages the children and is supported by a range of accessible resources. The ideas (see below) show how advance planning helps to ensure that we make the most of every opportunity.

Broadening the picture

As the plan opposite suggests, we have found that fundraising is a stimulating context for learning across the curriculum. But perhaps more important is the contribution that we see it making to children’s broader development. Part of our ethos is an emphasis on enriching children’s relationships with others – we want our pupils to understand their place in the world, consider others and feel that they can make a difference to people’s lives.

In Ofsted terms, fundraising is a great way to promote children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC). Guidance for inspectors states that: “Inspectors should consider the climate and ethos of the school and what effect this has on enabling pupils to grow and flourish, become confident individuals, and appreciate their own worth and that of others.” Our fundraising work is a good practical demonstration of this.


The fundamental questions about the meaning of life that are raised by the work done by charities affect everyone, regardless of religion. As a church school, we focus on a different Christian value each week. These values, such as compassion, respect and justice, resonate with and help to shape children’s perspective on fundraising projects. They enjoy and engage with stories about those who are helped by charities, relating the lives of others to their own experiences.

Morally, talking about the work of charities offers great opportunities to introduce children to questions of right and wrong. Why is it right that we should help others and wrong to ignore people in need? Through fundraising, children learn about the consequences of their actions in a very positive, direct way – we always try to explain the difference that the money they have raised will make (charities can help with this information).

In terms of social development, helping to organise and taking part in activities involves pupils working together to achieve a shared goal. Activities tend to involve the whole school, which encourages children to mix with others outside their usual friendship group.

From a cultural perspective, we draw on the case studies provided by charities to explore how different people live locally, nationally and globally. Coming from a small Yorkshire market town that is not particularly culturally diverse, fundraising provides a valuable opportunity to develop children’s respect for and understanding of different cultures.

Putting fundraising first

The fundraising we do with children enriches their learning, enhances their SMSC development, and helps to create the caring, uplifting environment that is our school. In difficult financial times it is tempting to shift it down the priority list, but we make sure that it is a central part of school life.

Red Nose Day theme plan

Build up
• Dinosaur clues appear around school
• Questions/wanted posters appear in classrooms and corridors
• Banners up: “Together we can make a difference”
• Images of advertising on whiteboards during wake up work.

• Whole-school assembly: Introduce Red Nose Day planning, watch Comic Relief primary school film about Robert’s life in an Kenyan slum (www.rednoseday.com/schools/primary/resources)
• Explain to children they are in charge of leading our contribution towards Red Nose Day.

Themes for thought time in collective worship or PSHE
• I wonder…
• Question time (Why do we have so much when others have so little? Why does life seem so unfair sometimes?)
• Caring for others
• Finance education (taking care of fundraising)

Collaborative research
• Did you know?
• Children to put together fact finder all about Red Nose Day and how lives have been transformed
• Reading challenge: Find out about the charity
• Reading books information/story themes helping others, Africa


History of Red Nose Day
• What have we done in the past?
• Staff to collate old photos/memories of previous events
• How Comic Relief has made a difference in the UK and in Africa

Creative development/art/D&T
• Create own dinosaur pledge bunting
• Art pictures/collage monsters

• Writing to inform/letters and emails to request media attention, family involvement

• Map work
• Journeys from the UK to Africa
• Compare/contrast our lives in Knaresborough and Robert’s life in a slum in Kenya
• Environmental impacts

• Finance education
• Problem-solving based on Red Nose Day

Enterprise project
• The PTA provides £15 per class – year 6 children lead project with other classes to raise funds

Action Planning – our day in school
• School Council leads an assembly and shares various ideas put forward by the children and also using Comic Relief resources
• Back to classes: Time to think and put forward their suggestions
• School Council collates suggestions and then shares what the school has decided to do in order to raise money for Red Nose Day

Involving parents/carers and community
• Invite in at the beginning of the day for coffee
• Homework
• Learning platform research
• Texts to parents/newsletters/learning platform – invites/how much raised
• Include article in school newsletter showing our Red Nose Day journey in more detail
• Invite in the PTA, class governors, and contact the local press

Further information

Red Nose Day 2013 takes place on Friday, March 15. Visit www.rednoseday.com/htu for a free fundraising resource pack.

• Emma Higgins is head at St John’s CE Primary School in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. This article has been written with the help of her leadership team.

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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