Activism

These primary students are going for Christmas number one to raise money for their school

The school is worried about their future.

children singing at Barn Croft school

The students recorded the song in one day. (Credit: Simon Aldridge)

Christmas singles in the cost of living crisis have become more about charity than the charts and now primary school students in London are launching a bid for a Christmas number one to keep their school open.

Barn Croft Primary School in Waltham Forest recorded their version of John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” to raise awareness of the budget cuts affecting the school.

“I said we should try to fundraise to close the deficit and then I had this crazy idea that we should go really big with it and try to get a Christmas number one,” said Daniel Edelstyn, whose son attends the school. “It just popped into my head.”

They have also started a crowdfunding campaign to raise £50,000 for solar panels to be installed on the school’s rooftop, providing energy security and allowing the school to rely on a renewable energy source that will be better for the climate and their budgets. 

Data from the National Association of Head Teachers released in October showed that 90 per cent of schools in England are expecting to run out of money by September next year. 

Despite Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s pledge for a £2.3 billion rise in funding for state schools, there were concerns that funding would not cover the 7 per cent rise in costs for schools.

The Stop School Cuts campaign reports that Barn Croft is losing out on £432 per pupil in 2023, which equates to nearly £83,000 overall.

Tracey Griffiths, head teacher at Barn Croft, said: “The song sums up how our school community is feeling about the lack of funding in education at the moment and the worry about the future.”

Griffiths added that the funds raised would ensure that the school can deal “with the uncertainty surrounding rising energy costs” and keep the school up and running. 

The school warned that ongoing budgetary issues would mean the children would lose out on vital education and that redundancies of staff would be the only way to make up for the shortfall.

The campaign is the brainchild of Edelstyn and Hilary Powell, both of whom are involved in the project POWER, which is aiming to build solar panels across the rooftops of north east London to tackle climate change and the energy crisis by “turning every viable building into a renewable energy source.”

Edelstyn told the Big Issue that he was “so shocked” when he found out about the issues the school was facing with the budget. 

While the £50,000 the school is trying to raise would be “a good start” to plugging the funding gap, Barn Croft will need more in the future for it to solve the ongoing problem, he said.

The school recorded their version of “You’re The Voice” in just one day with different year groups doing their parts at different times.

“There were limited rehearsals but the lyrics of the song were sent out in the school newsletter beforehand. We worked with a music producer to make a version in the right pitch for the children and it was sort of like a big karaoke night,” Powell told the Big Issue.

Only the students can be heard on the final recording but Powell added that all the teachers were in the room singing along in the background: “Everyone did really well, it was a good team.”

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Powell and Edelsytn are optimistic about reaching their crowdfunding goal and feel that they have a good shot at reaching number one in time for Christmas. 

So far, the crowdfunder has raised over £16,000 with 25 days left for people to donate. 

Powell said, “We’re very aware that we have to compete with songs like Lad Baby but we’re already really excited and we really want it to build awareness around the funding issue Barn Croft is facing.”

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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