With budgets tightening and class sizes on the rise, there has never been a more urgent need for school leaders to find creative ways to future-proof their finances.
Finding ways to generate additional income for the school is no longer just about raising money for extra purchases, but rather a necessity for schools to meet fundamental expenses, such as teaching staff’s salaries, and vital learning resources, such as textbooks for the pupils.
Because of this, many schools across the country have been looking for ways that they can proactively supplement their income. One solution that many schools are exploring is opening up their doors to the local community and letting out their facilities, which often sit empty and unused outside of school hours – an estimated 55% of the time.
There are currently thousands more schools than there are leisure centres in the UK, most of which have fantastic sports pitches, dance halls and drama studios. In fact, according to new research from Sport England, 39% of England’s sporting and leisure facilities are located on school sites.
Considering that local community groups are always on the lookout for quality spaces to call home, it makes no sense to have these facilities lying unused on evenings, weekends and holidays.
Schools acting as community hubs
Because of their location, as well as the quality of facilities they can provide, schools and academies across the country are perfectly placed to act as community hubs for local community groups and sports clubs.
Greater access to quality facilities – which schools can provide - means that people of all ages can take part in extra-curricular activities, not just schoolchildren. In our survey*, more than a quarter (27%) of British adults, with children living in their household, admitted that their children actively take part in activities such as football, dance, or martial arts, but they themselves do not. If these activities were to take place in the same convenient local venue, busy parents could take the opportunity to pursue a sport or hobby at the same time as their children, without any extra time or travel required.
Solving the problem of access
A lack of accessible facilities can be a major deterrent to people looking to get involved with community groups. However, if local groups and clubs were to make use of the facilities readily available at their local schools, they could welcome countless more members who may not have been able to join due to time or distance constraints.
For example, one of our partnered schools lets out its sports pitches every weekend to a local football team, whose players were previously having to travel to a football pitch that was located several miles outside the town. This was discouraging potential new members from joining the club, as they were struggling to get to and from training sessions and matches.
At the same time, the school’s well-placed facilities were being completely unused outside of school hours. But, since making use of the pitches at our partner school, the team and fans no longer have to travel miles out of town to make it to the club each week. Having the team based locally has meant that everybody in the local community can now support the team more easily than ever before, and hundreds of keen sportspeople aged seven and upwards have a place to have fun and practice their skills.
Raising the schools profile in the community
Not only will letting out their facilities to the community give schools additional income, it also comes with a host of other additional benefits.
Being viewed as a community hub can enhance the schools public image, and forge invaluable links with local youth services and community groups. This positive public image can also attract more pupils to the school, as parents are more likely to send their children to a school they already know.
It’s not just sports facilities that can be of use to local groups – schools can house extracurricular groups of all shapes and sizes. For example, the school classrooms could play host to language classes, or night-time tutoring classes, allowing people from all walks of life across the community to meet, socialize, and learn together.
Using a managed lettings service
With schools already struggling for time and money, many currently do not let out their facilities because they need to focus their resources on their pupils’ academic well-being. The core responsibilities of exam results, providing a quality education and student happiness must always take precedence over anything else.
However, partnering up with a third party, such as a managed lettings service, means that schools do not need to invest any of their own time or money – all logistics such as out-of-hours staffing, financials and administration are managed by the partnered service, at no cost to the school.
With community groups up and down the country always in need of accessible facilities, schools opening their doors and letting out their facilities is a wonderful way to generate additional income at a time when budgets are becoming increasingly stretched.
Now that the British summer is fully upon us, there has never been a better time for community groups to make use of the facilities at their local schools, academies and colleges.
By Paul Andrews, director of School Lettings Solutions.
For more information, please visit: www.schoollettings.org
*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2012 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 6th March 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).