A London teacher has been recognised after single-handedly raising £80,000 to set up a robotics department at his school.
With schools struggling with funding cuts in recent years, teachers like Stephen Sadler are taking the situation into their own hands to give their pupils opportunities.
He works as a design, technology and robotics teacher at East Barnet School, and has just been recognised with a national Pearson Teaching Award.
To date he has raised £80,000 to kit his school out with software, robotics hardware and augmented reality equipment, and is targeting a further £20,000 this academic year.
“I always try and give myself a target of twenty or thirty grand a year,” he tells i.
He does it by tapping companies up for sponsorship. On one occasion he “gatecrashed” an event by the Indian telecoms giant, Tata Communications, and “managed to secure £15,000”.
But no firm is too small for him to ask for support. “I’ll walk into my local chip shop and let them know what I’ve been up to,” he says. “I’ll ask them if they can spare £150, £200, or if they can offer me free chips on a Thursday to feed the kids.”
With Mr Sadler’s students taking their robotic creations to competitions around the world, the sponsors get exposure in return. “We’re branding the robot just like you would an F1 car,” he says. “There are spots all over the robot that are up for grabs.”
Some of his students have taken a leaf out of his book. Last week one of his pupils “managed to get in contact with a company in Italy, and they’ve sponsored us £2,000”.
Mr Sadler says that he has been forced to go to these lengths by the school funding crisis.
“Until the Government, whoever it is, pulls their finger out their backside and gets themselves sorted, it’s going to be difficult for every state school,” he says.
“I hear so many stories in colleges I talk to, where their [D&T] faculties are just shrinking, or they’re closing down in some cases, which is absolutely absurd.
“D&T is one of the most key subjects. Everyone needs to design, and to understand how something is designed and has been manufactured.”
He added: “I think the Government needs to really look carefully about how they fund these things.”