This led to a regeneration programme during which the local authority took on lettings of the school facilities leading to improved health and leisure opportunities for local community. By 2011 the leisure provision at the school was running at a loss and community activity declined as the local authority made a decision to close down the dual use arrangement. Community use was no longer a priority for the school, and community provision at the school site ceased.
By 2013 the school converted to an AET Academy and the newly appointed Principal was keen to open the doors to the community, as a vehicle for promoting the school and positioning it at the heart of the community once more.
Greenwood Academy has developed a community offer in a relatively short space of time, setting up a pilot in April 2014 and then a full programme from September 2014, and they are already starting to see how the benefits are working for the school.
- Sports Hall – 4 Badminton Court Sized
- 2 x Gymnasiums – each 1 badminton court sized (used for football, basketball, badminton and trampolining)
- Dance Studio – also used for martial arts
- Auditorium – with stage, tiered seating, theatre lighting and PA system (used for large events, community awards, and performing arts groups etc. The auditorium is hired with technical support from the Production and Technical Assistant)
- Dining Hall – used by dance groups, church groups etc.
- The school have also recently set up a community tuck shop selling teas, coffees and snacks.
Type of community users
There is no ‘pay and play’ activity as this was higher risk for school as it is more difficult to collect payments. The facilities are used by a range of organised groups and clubs making block bookings. The main customer is a Gymnastics Club that has over 150 members and uses the facilities three nights per week.
Community activity is overseen by a full time Arts, Events and Community Manager (AEC Manager). Their role is to manage the community programme alongside an extensive range of community events that the school deliver including a Santa’s Grotto and Summer Fun Day. The AEC Manager develops longstanding relationships with clubs and groups and works with a Community Assistant and Production and Technical Assistant to manage the programme.
During evenings and at weekends, community activity is supervised by a team of Stewards who are made up of non-teaching support staff paid overtime by the school. Their role is to open and close the facilities, deal with any issues that may arise and manage the tuck shop etc. This arrangement works well as the Stewards are already familiar with the site and school operational procedures such as safeguarding policies.
Recently, Greenwood Academy have recruited six of their own Sixth Form Students as Junior Stewards – providing them with work experience and paid employment on the school site. This has the added advantage of providing paid employment for Students which complements their studies (where external part time jobs can sometimes interfere with their education).
Invoices are raised by the School Finance Manager. This management model enables the school to cover their staffing costs and make a small profit which funds community activity. It was agreed that utility outgoings would be reviewed annually.
Making it work
The school set up an eight week pilot programme with a local Football Academy. This enabled them to start small, just one night per week, and to test out their operational model whilst gaining valuable feedback from the club. The community programme then grew organically, moving to two nights per week and so on until reaching the current arrangement which is six nights per week. The school had already built up a database of local contacts from the enquiries they had received other the previous few years, so they used this mailing list to gain interest from groups and develop their community programme.
The school also marketed the facilities through advertisements in the local newspaper which reaches 4,000 households, and this attracted six additional group bookings. The Gymnastics Club (which relocated from a less suitable venue) were a big help to kick start the community programme.
Two Sport England Satellite Clubs run from the school – which provide a smooth transition from after school to community club. This additional funding has enabled the school to work with some high quality coaches and provide opportunities for their Students to compete nationally.
The school are currently looking for Badminton Coaches to develop sessions during their quieter slots. This arrangement would involve the coach being offered a series of free lettings in order for them to develop a viable club.
The school operate at competitively priced rates which are lower than the average in the area. In return, they expect community users to be responsible by keeping up to date with their payments, and doing everything they can to leave the facility as they have found it (clean and tidy). This understanding between the school and the community groups (outlined within the terms and conditions) enables them to keep the outgoings to a minimum and therefore keep the rates low for the benefit of community groups and clubs.
“We are looking for longstanding relationships”
Groups with more than 50% of participants from the local Castle Vale Community, receive a third off the hourly rate. If a club or group is struggling to meet the hire rate then there is some room for individual negotiations to take place. For example, a Zumba teacher relocated a class to the school, but this caused a reduction in participants so meant the sessions were not financially viable.
The school were keen for the sessions to take place as they contributed towards their healthy lifestyle programme. An arrangement was reached so that the Zumba teacher was provided with a number of free sessions to enable them to build up their membership and develop into a successful model.
Community participation and engagement are a key priority for Greenwood Academy and this is reflected in the governance arrangements. The AEC Manager is line managed by the Principal and reports directly to the Trustees. Community use is part of a wider programme of community events that the school deliver with the aim of placing the school at the centre of the community.
Greenwood Academy recognise that this will increase their student numbers and the positive profile of the school, in a community where word of mouth is so important. At an operational level, community use is managed with transparency and the AEC Manager has an honest and frank relationship with the community groups. This enables any issues to be raised informally and then resolved quickly. It helps that the AEC Manager was once a Student at the school, and has an intimate knowledge of the local community and the historical community activity on the site.
The school has not been designed particularly well for community use as they are unable to zone off their community areas. For this reason, the Stewards are essential to ensure community use is managed safely and the school remains secure. The school have had to make some improvements to the external security lighting to enable community groups to access the site safely, particularly in winter.
Greenwood Academy are reaching a point where they will be taking stock of current activity, reviewing what works well and where improvements are required. Future plans include targeted marketing of the auditorium which is a potentially lucrative resource (seating 350), this would also benefit the Technician who would gain overtime employment and therefore more job security. They also plan to improve the efficiency of their booking procedures in order to sustain and develop their current programme.
Greenwood Academy have not had any problems engaging their community, but they did not consider the full extent of the administration procedures required to support this. The school currently track bookings on an excel spreadsheet but this is not fit for purpose so they are exploring more suitable software applications.
The community programme has increased the footfall on site and sent out a positive message about the Academy. Students benefit from access to a range of new opportunities and activities as well as work experience.
The school are on an exciting journey, with the best exam results they’ve ever had this year, and a recent Ofsted rating of Good, the community programme is viewed as a key part in this jigsaw.
- Embed community use into your school life
- Find the best model to suit your school
- Ensure you maximise the benefits for your Students
Trev Evans – Arts, Events and Community Manager
|Type: Academy Converter (Converted in January 2013)||Gender: Mixed|
|Age Range: 11-18||Size: 700|
|Location: North Birmingham – inner city||Management Model: Direct management by school|
|No. of Community Users: Approx. 300 plus per week (and growing)|