Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It Won’t Be You!

As you’ve probably gathered from one of my previous articles on grants, bursaries and sabbaticals, I’m pretty much a serial applicant. I apply for everything. However, what I neglected to mention was that there is a fairly high failure rate. My success ratio is about 1 in 10. Not that I use a scatter gun approach, some of the ‘marks’, ‘charters’ and ‘awards’ are a total waste of time. My selection criteria are – What’s in it for the children? Will it help me develop as a teacher and is there any money?

I’ve had to endure a myriad of failed bids, letters that start ‘unfortunately’ and the bitter taste of rejection. In most cases it really doesn’t bother me, I move on, maybe apply next year. I’m also secure in the knowledge that I’ve had some fairly spectacular successes.

But there’s one rejection from the Heritage Lottery that has really annoyed me. We’ve been applying on and off for three years to make a film. The Heritage Lottery exists to help small community organisations with funding from £5,000 to £50,000.

I think I’ve lost count of the number of times our application has been batted back and forth. Finally we’ve been told that we need to “rescope” (whatever that means) our application. What really enraged me was that even though our forms hadn’t been to the final stage, where a regional board considers the bid, a new application must be re-submitted with original documents. So we’ll have to chase round for new letters of support and financial estimates.

The tone of their letter was a disgrace, finding fault with as many details as possible, not one positive comment. If I wrote children’s reports like that I would deserve to be sacked. They kept asking for ‘more detail’ when all they provide is a tiny box on the application form.

I did some research on the Heritage Lottery web site, our school is in one of the poorest boroughs in the country, in the last ten years we’ve received about £½ million in Lottery money. Compare that with two of the richest areas – Macclesfield with £13 million and Aylesbury with £15 million. It’s true that a large proportion has gone on expensive National Trust projects – no problem there, it is a ‘national treasure’. But why so little for our borough?

The grant officers seem to change with bewildering regularity, but they all seem to have been trained in the, ‘what do you peasants want?’ attitude. You definitely get the feeling that a knight of the realm or a titled lady on our board of management would help considerably.

There’s also the suspicion that money is being diverted from the Lottery to the London Olympics. There was an excellent article in ‘The Guardian’ by Simon Jenkins where he pointed out that £10 billion is being lavished on 16 days of sport. He also listed Lottery funded projects that were closing down.

You get the impression that the Heritage Lottery grants officers spend their time shuffling bits of paper around and sending out condescending rejection letters. Why not be honest? Just tell people, ‘You’ve got no chance, all the money’s going on the Olympics, and you’re wasting your time.’

I’ve written to our MP and contacted the papers, but I’m not confident that anything will come of it. What really pisses me off? It’s our children that lose out.

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