Gesher ‘blown away’ as supporters give £2.2m in 36 hours

Special needs school almost doubles its campaign target in aid of work on its new Pinner premises


The £2.2 million raised from a 36-hour matched fundraising drive by special needs school Gesher will accelerate building work on its new site.

Gesher had originally set a £1.2 million goal for its “Big Build” crowdfunder on Sunday and Monday to help transform the Pinner site into state-of-the-art premises, extending its provision for primary age and opening a secondary section.

School co-founder Sarah Sultman was “blown away” by the response. “It’s been quite an epic 36 hours,” she told the JC. “We were nervous we had set our original target high. To have [almost] doubled it is amazing. We are so incredibly grateful to the community for getting behind us.” She suggested that “people liked the idea that the money was going into something concrete”.

There were around 4,500 contributors with one single donation of £70,000 and another of £50,000. Former footballer Frank Lampard was among the celebrity supporters.

Gesher educates 40 children with a range of needs including autism, ADHD, dyslexia and Down’s syndrome at its current Willesden base.

The new building — to which it will move in September — requires extensive renovation. Refurbishment plans include adding occupational therapy rooms, a sensory room, and specialist educational equipment, as well as replaceing the heating and air conditioning.

Because the crowdfunder raised £1 million more than anticipated, “we are able to do a lot more of the work sooner”, Ms Sultman said.

She and Ali Durban, both of whom have children with special needs, established Gesher in 2017, to plug a gap in the education system they believe was failing their children.

“There is a severe shortage of specialist provision across the UK,” Ms Sultman said. Gesher was “bursting at the seams” at Willesden and had to relocate, she added. “But there is a lot of work to do at the new school before we can move in.”

The Pinner premises were “a great opportunity”, Ms Durban added. “But it is a 30-year-old school, built for primary age children in the 1990s who are neuro-typical. We have to adapt, modernise and upscale this building so that it is appropriate for secondary age pupils and children with special educational needs.”

Rated outstanding by Ofsted, Gesher is in the top three per cent of special needs schools in the UK. It depends entirely on private donations.



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