Goat racing. Not the usual fodder of daily life at secondary school. Think of school and you would probably think of your friends, classrooms, teachers, endless homework… but goats? Or goat races? Not so likely. So where on earth does a goat race fit in with a school?
Fundraising and charity work have long been the stalwart of many a school, nothing new there, but how ideas are born and realised is where Varndean School students make the difference. So in a school that embraces individuality and nurtures creativity it seems fitting that on 24th March we are holding a goat race to raise money for Comic Relief.
We have five pygmy goats, named after the four schools which make up Varndean School – Maya (Angelou), Bertie (Russell), Alan (Turing), Ethel (Ellis) – and William after our Headteacher Mr Deighan. The original idea of a race was something fun to do – goat introducer and Director of Finance and Operations Hilary Goldsmith recalled, “I was thinking of words that rhymed with goat and I got to ‘boat’, thought ‘boat race’ and the rest is history….” So in talks with Alison Browning, our Challenge Co-ordinator, the pair looked at ways the event could be used to raise money for charity. Following the success of last year’s Comic Relief bake off and cake sale, the four schools are working together to support Comic Relief again with the goat race and the bake-off and cake sale. We are thrilled to have The Latest’s Andrew Kay judging once again along with our Headteacher.
Traditionally, charity work is run slightly differently at Varndean School. At the start of each academic year students from all year groups are encouraged to develop their social responsibility through joining their school’s charity team. The first task is to identify the area of focus for their school, then work with Ms Browning to select the individual charity for that year. Fundraising is carried out through non-uniform days, performance events, seasonal fairs (think, ‘soak the teacher’), cake sales and crucially, by converting achievement points to ‘charity cash’. With events being planned, organised and run by the students with staff support, student voice is key to the process, the results speak for themselves with over £9,000 raised in the 2015-2016 academic year and close to £40,000 in the last 4-5 years.
We have five pygmy goats, named after the four schools which make up Varndean School – Maya (Angelou), Bertie (Russell), Alan (Turing), Ethel (Ellis) – and William after our Headteacher Mr Deighan
Community and social responsibility are intrinsic to our school ethos, one which celebrates the different aspects and talents of every child. Talents are recognised both inside the classroom and in extra-curricular activities such as volunteering for The Rotary Club programme which recognises exceptional young citizens who freely and regularly give their time and energy to helping others. Performers (even those reticent at first) are given many opportunities to shine in weekly assemblies, school shows and inter-school competitions such as the classical music and rowing challenge to name but two. While the likes of poetry, photography and bake offs may appeal more to others. Due to the phenomenal numbers of students taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, Varndean School was the first state school in Brighton and Hove to go the extra mile and become a Directly Licensed Centre for D of E programme, where we have youngsters volunteering 1,195 hours (equating to a social value of £4,445) in many areas of the community such as after school clubs, Park Run and environmental charities.
So back to the race: as well as the necessary training for both the goats and Goatherders, (this is everyone’s first time, after all, none more so than for the School Governors who will be herding William) students have been avidly collecting donations from students and staff in form times, at break/lunch and generally whenever they can.
There is an online Red Nose Day Giving Page: my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/varndeangoatrace which has seen parents and school contractors donating alike.
Anyone can donate via this page and we are truly thankful for your support. You can find out more about the individual goats and the event on our website at www.varndean.co.uk/comicrelief