WORKSHOP: Case Study - Mencap spells out its work to schools

KIRSTEN DOWNER

Project: Mencap Spellathon and fundraising schools pack

Agency: In-house designers

Background: Learning disability charity Mencap is the only organisation to run a sponsored spelling test in schools. This year, it used the Spellathon alongside its new multimedia pack to increase the awareness of learning disabilities among children in schools, and to fight discrimination.

The aim of the "Let Us Know

pack is to help children who have learning disabilities communicate. The pack can be bought by local authorities, as well as schools and children's playgroups.

Aim of the campaign: The fundraising schools pack was designed to help teachers with lesson plans for the new personal, social and health education element of the National Curriculum. It aimed to top the £96,000 figure raised by schools last year, and reach even more schools.

How it worked: A mail-out sent to 43,000 primary and secondary schools in September invited them to request the pack for children between the ages of seven to 11. The pack included spelling lists, posters and stickers.

This year, additional spelling lists have also been included for the older 12 to 13 age range.

The lesson plans and spelling tests can be used by teachers throughout the year but most take place during the designated Spellathon month of February. Children can be sponsored per word or per test.

There are prizes for the top fundraising school, child and teacher - but only if money was sent in by mid-March - to encourage speedy completion by schools. Prizes included balloons, computers, laptops and free or discounted books from Oxford University Press, which devised the spelling lists for the charity.

This year, the BBC children's programme Blue Peter helped to promote the Spellathon and the presenters were featured on the accompanying posters sent out to schools.

An additional incentive was a free Spellathon mug for every teacher who formally signed up.

Words used in the spelling test - including, for example, "enable

and "acceptance

- encouraged children to think about the issues around learning disabilities.

One idea for a lesson structure focuses on children with learning disabilities, and aims to show that they have the same sort of dreams and hopes as all other children.

Results: The Spellathon will go on all year, but, according to Catherine Rushworth, national events co-ordinator at the charity, results are already up on 2001. Just under 1,000 schools have applied for the pack, as opposed to 692 last year. This year, 116 schools have confirmed participating, up on the 76 this time last year, raising a total of £45,000 so far - nearly half this year's target of £100,000. One school alone has raised £6,000.

"This figure - from little kids - is just amazing,

said Rushworth. "The average is usually between £600 and £1,000. We're encouraged by the feedback we've got on our 'Let Us Know' package and loads of schools have rung us up for information on Mencap, asking us to come in to assemblies and collect cheques."

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