A reflection from Gesher’s Co-Founder, Sarah Sultman, on the experience of mobilising the creation of Gesher School


Before we could go to any donors in the community we spent over a year researching the need in the community.

We began by hosting what were essentially ʼtrunk style eveningsʼ in local synagogues and around kitchen tables, where we invited people through Facebook and word of mouth, to come and hear about our plans and to gather people who wanted to get on board. It wasnʼt us dictating to the community our vision but more like sharing our ideas and asking them – what did they want in a school, did they have skills they could help us with.

We knew that ideas alone werenʼt enough to create a school. We needed an entire community of volunteers to freely give up their time and expertise to get the project up and running and we were fortunate to have met so many remarkable people who so enthusiastically wanted to get on board.

The first people that came on board were a retired lawyer and an accountant – we needed to register as a charity and to have some sort of an idea about the finances involved in setting up a school.

This very basic, crude, mind map is from 2014 but this was our starting position! This led us to meet all the people that came on board. It gives you just a small idea of all the different areas we have to find expertise in. We created a network with people introducing us to other people as well as cold calling.

I think our passion, determination and tenacity went a long way but really, once we were armed with the data and the numbers, it was obvious that this school was desperately needed. Most people didnʼt take that much convincing.

We have heard of many others wanting to set up a school and many of them give up before theyʼve really even started. It takes commitment, time and dedication. We thought we could do it in a year but it took us from 2013 – 2017 when our first pupils arrived at the school. There is no official ʻhow to set up a SEN school from scratchʼ manual. If there was, it might have saved us a year or two but equally we wouldnʼt have acquired the knowledge that we did by educating ourselves every step of the way.