Oakdale School in Dukinfield and St Edwards School in Oldham fought off tough competition in a public vote to be named two of only eight projects in the UK to win community awards from Engage Mutual.
Oakdale School, which caters for children with severe learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorders, will use the money to purchase a dual swing, to allow children with restricted mobility to enjoy play time with their able bodied classmates. With a third of all students either in wheelchairs or suffering from restricted mobility, the dual swing will make it easier for all Oakdale pupils to interact within the school and the playground, making for a happier more integrated environment.
St. Edwards School in Oldham, will use its £5,000 to set up a sensory room that has been inspired by a terminally ill pupil, Ruby Baker. Ruby’s mum, Natalie, applied for the community award on behalf of St. Edwards’ which would not only benefit her daughter, but the entire student body. The sensory room will offer Ruby a place in which she can stimulate her senses, and also means she can stay at the mainstream school she has been attending for four years, rather than attending a special educational institution.
The community awards funding is provided by the Engage Foundation, which was set up in January, and will make at least £1 million available to its customers over the next five years. The funding, in the form of personal grants and community awards, is to enable customers to make a positive difference in their lives and communities.
The Mutual’s customers were able to nominate community award projects with the recipients decided through a public vote on the Engage Mutual website.
Engage Mutual customer, Kelly Wray, applied for the funding on behalf of Oakdale School after being heavily involved there since her son enrolled.
Kelly Wray said “When I applied for the community award, the thought never even occurred to me that we could win. We really can’t thank Engage enough! They have kept us fully informed throughout the process, really helping to keep the momentum going.
“This new swing will make such a difference to all of the children’s lives at the school. It means that they can all play together, side by side, which although sounds like something so simple to most, for our children it is something they have dreamed of doing for such a long time.”
Linda Lester, head teacher at Oakdale School added, “Getting people together to build support has been such an enjoyable and rewarding process. The parents and community across the region have really got behind our cause and we’re overwhelmed by the response we received. We cannot thank everyone enough for the votes and support, the difference this will make to our children is immeasurable.”
Natalie Baker also further expressed her gratitude by saying, “It was such a hard decision to keep Ruby in mainstream school, as her condition means that she isn’t always physically able to do what her friends do. We considered the possibility of changing her to a school that could meet her special needs but we couldn’t bring ourselves to take her away from the friends she has made over the past four years. This sensory room will mean that Ruby can stay at St. Edwards, enjoy the best of what school days have to offer and we are safe in the knowledge that she is getting the most out of the experience.
“Without Engage and the additional fundraising at the school, this simply would not have been possible. Although money can’t buy happiness, it can help secure a happier future for my daughter and the rest of the children at the school which is the best gift a mother could ask for.”
As a mutual organisation, Engage is owned by, and run for, its customers. The Foundation is made possible due to the financial stability of the customer-owned organisation which provides life and health insurance, and a variety of savings products.
The schools were two of eight winners of £5,000, beating 169 other Foundation entrants for this funding level, demonstrating both the importance of these projects to their communities and the sheer volume of customer causes that Engage will be able to help in the coming years.
Anna Drabble, Head of Community at Engage Mutual said, “When we set up the Engage Foundation earlier on in the year we did so with one overriding objective: to enable customers to benefit from the financial success of their business. We think it’s great to be able to help a community project or a good cause that people feel passionate about. We’re very much looking forward to seeing the improvements funded by the £5,000 grants and hope all of the children at Oakdale and St. Edwards School enjoy the new facilities.”