Lordswood Academies Trust

Community use has developed slowly over a number of years at Lordswood Girls’ School

Originally it was the role of a member of the Finance team to establish small scale lettings on the site. It then became clear that if the school wanted to develop their community use it would require a dedicated role to grow the business. In 2013, Lordswood Girls’ School made the decision to create a specific full time role – Director of Development and Outreach to manage community activity. This post also has additional responsibilities such as marketing and advertising the Academies Trust, and managing extracurricular activities and external partnerships. When Lordswood Boys’ School joined the Academies Trust in 2013, the Girls’ School also took on the responsibility for community bookings for that site.

Lordswood Academies Trust is now in the fortunate position that they are able to fund an enrichment programme for students using the income from community lettings.

Facilities

  • Sports Hall/Gymnasiums - 1 court sports hall at the Boys school and a 2 court sports hall at the Girls School
  • Media Arts Suite – accommodating up to 80 people
  • Drama Studio
  • Grass football pitches
  • Assembly Hall
  • Classrooms

Type of community users

The Lordswood Academies Trust site is used by a range of sports clubs and charities. The Girls’ School have a longstanding relationship with a Martial Arts Academy that uses the facilities every weekday evening and Saturday mornings, running a range of classes for all ages and abilities.

“It’s not about money, but about using the space and that brings with it lots of benefits”

Little Kickers (which delivers football skills to children up to 7 years of age) hire the sports hall on a regular basis as the space is a suitable size for this age group. A local junior football club have free use of the grass pitches to train on Saturdays and then pay to use the pitches for their Sunday matches.

A number of charities use the site on a regular basis including The Challenge Network and Acorns Children’s Hospice (providing sibling support). A church group use the site on a Sunday; this letting had to be agreed by Academy Trust as faith groups are accepted on a discretionary basis. Pauline Quirke Performing Arts Academy have also recently started to hire the facilities.

Management model

Community use is managed by the Trust using a low cost model offering a basic provision. Community bookings are managed by the Director of Development and Outreach, and this takes up approximately 25% of her time. She is supported by a member of the finance team who spends one day each month raising the invoices relating to community lettings.

“We plan to grow at a comfortable rate”

The school have a contract with a security company who manage the site outside of curriculum time. During evenings and at weekends the security company will meet the community group at the reception desk and show them to the space. The community spaces are cleaned in the morning after the activity has taken place, so there are no additional cleaning requirements. There are no catering facilities offered during community use.

Making it work

Design

Lordswood Academies Trust have had to make it work with ageing facilities some of which are in poor condition. The design of the school means that there are lots of steps which can cause problems with regard to disabled access. Disabled users will sometimes need to be met in advance and additional provision is arranged such as ramps to work around the limitations of their building design. On a positive note, most of the sports facilities can be accessed easily from the main entrance.

Storage facilities for community groups is an ongoing problem, however a solution was found for the Martial Arts group who have formed a long term relationship with the school. The Academy purchased a shipping container and charge the group an annual rate for storage (£240.00).

Finances

Staffing costs are minimal as most of the community hours are already included within the security contract (any additional hours such as Sunday evenings cost the school £10.50 per hour). An annual amount is transferred to the main school budget to cover the costs of utilities.

After benchmarking pricing with other local schools, the pricing policy was agreed on a rate that balanced the condition of the facilities with the advantageous location of the school. There is one rate for facility hire which starts at £15 for a classroom or studio space and £30 per hour for the assembly hall.

The Director of Development and Outreach makes it clear to prospective community groups that the school are first and foremost and educational establishment and this may mean that the spaces may not always be in pristine condition but this is reflected in the pricing. This means they can keep cleaning costs to a minimum and therefore keep community charges low.

Communication

The Director of Development and Outreach reports directly to the Head Teacher and provides regular updates to the leadership team and governing body. Bookings are recorded on a google calendar which can be accessed by other key staff, and a timetable of community bookings and events is emailed to school staff at the beginning of each term.

“...face to face relationships with hirers are important”

The Academy have developed a comprehensive lettings policy, application form and risk assessment for community groups to complete (see resource bank documents). The school keep in touch with local residents through a termly newsletter and also hold an annual residents meeting to update them on developments including any large scale events that are taking place. This consultation is important as the school is situated on a residential road and extra traffic can cause complaints from neighbours.

Sustainability

Lordswood Academies Trust have a number of plans to improve their facilities. They are currently in the process of submitting funding applications to improve the drainage of their grass pitches (in partnership with their community football club). The school are also exploring capital developments to improve their ageing sports halls and in the meantime they are making some cosmetic improvements by decorating the corridors leading to the sports hall. Over the next year the focus for community bookings will be on developing the number of groups using the Boys’ School.

Challenges

The main challenge has been dealing with run-down facilities, and having to show someone a space that is in poor condition. However, this has not stopped the Academy from hiring out the facilities, as for a lot of groups it is simply about hiring a space that is the right size and in the right location and available when they need it.

The second challenge has been dealing with clashes between the lettings and school staff.  Although the Head teacher has been very supportive, sometimes there have been conflicts of interest. For example, during exam times or if a school production is taking place and the school require additional rehearsal time during community hours.

The Director of Development and Outreach has found, through experience, that the best way to deal with this is to give people plenty of notice – both for community groups that will need to change to a different location during the exam period, or for school groups that will need to relocate for a large community event. Part of the role is working out how to deal with these issues and learn from them.

Experience has taught the school that it is important to have a good relationship with their hirers, and that face to face meetings and being honest is important.

Benefits

The income from community lettings funds an enrichment programme for students which takes place every Wednesday afternoon with activities ranging from first aid training, to Zumba and stress management; this is a major benefit of lettings for Lordswood students.

The charities and sports clubs that access the site have developed relationships with Lordswood Academies Trust which have resulted in further curricular and extra-curricular partnerships such as challenge days, PSHE days etc. In return, the Creative Media team at school have produced publications and video work for a number of the charities and community groups that use the site on a regular basis.

Top Tips

  1. Get your school staff on board from the start – then they will be happy to work with you.
  2. It can be too easy to say ‘yes’ to a community request and over-commit – particularly in the early stages when you are trying to establish your programme. This can then lead to problems further down the line, so it is better to work out what is best for all involved and then make a suggestion that works for everyone.

Contact

Rose Hegarty

Director of Development and Outreach

r.hegarty@lordswoodtrust.co.uk

School Profile

Lordswood Academies Trust comprises Lordswood Girls’ School, Lordswood Boys’ School and the Lordswood Sixth Form Centre. The schools are situated on the same campus with some shared outdoor sports pitches and community use is managed centrally.
School Type: Lordswood Girls’ School converted to an Academy in April 2011. Size: 884 School Type: Lordswood Boys’ School became an academy in January 2013, joining the Academy Trust established by Lordswood Girls’. Size: 602
Location: The schools are situated in Harborne, a surburban area to the south of Birmingham with good transport links Management Model: Community use is managed across both sites in-house, by the Director of Development and Outreach
No. of Community Users: Approx. 570 regular users on a weekly basis (with approx 1,000 additional annual users attending one off events)

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