This opportunity enabled the school to include community provision as a key element in their vision and design aspirations. The result was a range of high quality sports and cultural facilities for both school and community use, with the help of additional financial contributions from their own devolved capital budget and partnership funding from the Football Association. Since then, community activity has soared and the facilities are booked to capacity for most of the year.
Community use has rocketed
The school has a strong Student Council and, as part of the BSF consultation process, the Students were involved in developing the concept and branding of the community facilities. Students felt strongly that the community provision needed to have a separate identity from the school for it to be successful. The school decided community use should be managed by a separate business arm with charitable status which they have named, ‘The Link’; representing a bridge between the school and local community. The Students also helped to develop the jigsaw themed logo – the colour scheme reflects the school house colours as well as the different services offered – Sport (green), Culture (yellow), Events (red ) and Community (blue).
Students are able to benefit from the enhanced facilities, and in 2011, Ofsted reported that “Students have a good understanding of healthy lifestyles and the majority participates regularly in extra-curricular sporting activities”.
The school originally employed a Sports Centre Manager to run The Link, but now that the sports dimension is running successfully they have replaced this post with a Business Development Manager who has a wider remit to sustain current activities, develop an adult learning programme and expand business during the school holidays.
Dance studio – with fully sprung floor, mirrored wall, dance barre, full sound system and lighting deck. The studio has retractable seating for 129 people. It is used for small shows, fitness classes, Taekwondo, Belly Dancing etc.
Sports Hall – 4 badminton court-sized hall, with digital scoreboard and AV projection. The hall is used by trampoline, basketball and football clubs and fitness classes.
Changing rooms with showers – There are two outdoor changing rooms which can be accessed both internally and externally, and two indoor changing rooms adjacent to the Sports Hall.
Conference room for 30 people.
Lecture theatre – with retractable seating for 150 for meetings and lectures. Perfect for the school science department as it has built in gas and sink area so demonstration can take place to a large audience.
Auditorium - with retractable seating for 247, with stage space. It is used for martial arts, fitness, dance shows as well as conferences and product launches.
Standard/double classroom – seating between 20-60 people.
Glass atrium – idea for displays/open days.
There are vending machines on site and community groups can hire the catering services for meetings and functions as required.
All Weather Pitch – with a ‘4G’ surface which has under floor drainage and therefore does not freeze. The pitch can be divided into thirds by curtains, allowing a more personal space for smaller groups such as 5 aside teams. It is floodlit and conforms to FIFA and International Hockey Federation standard.
Sports Pitches – 3 football pitches and markings for rugby and athletics track. One football pitch is on site and the other two are on the golden valley site which is one street away.
2 MUGAs – 6 tarmac courts, with markings for tennis, netball, basketball and 5-aside hockey, not floodlit.
Type of community users
The Link is mainly used by organised groups and clubs for long term bookings, with some one-off bookings from students for informal games and by local companies for team building days etc. Activities for young people include a Community Tennis Programme, Alchemy Trampoline Club (registered with British Gymnastics for ages 3 years plus), and The Rock Project – contemporary music tuition. There are a range of clubs which offer junior sections, and the PE department also run a range of after school clubs.
Adult classes include Belly/Egyptian Dancing and Pilates. The Link also host a range of non-sport activities such as: Sewing for beginners, first aid courses and computer courses. An after school club for primary aged children is also hosted on site and makes use of the sporting facilities.
The location and quality of the facilities means the school is also able to host a range of national events such as National Flower Shows and Historic Society Conferences.
The Link is run as a separate business with charitable status managed by a board of directors which are independent from the school governing body. The Link team are employed by the school but manage their own budget and resources and can access additional funds as a charity. The board includes the School Business Manager, Assistant Head, Head Teacher, School Governor and professional representatives from the local community.
The Link Business Development Manager is supported by three part-time Link Assistants. The Link team are supported by the School Premises Team, providing on-site support such as caretaking, moving equipment etc. They work alongside the Link Assistant therefore avoiding any lone working issues during evening opening hours. The Link Assistants roles includes meeting and greeting at the community entrance, dealing with operational and health and safety issues, programme development and administration.
The Link Business Development Manager is integrated well and works closely with the school staff, in particular; working with the School Business Manager regarding finances and budgets, the Operations Manager regarding health and safety and liaising re maintenance schedules, and the Head Teacher regarding the vision and direction for the school.
The Link transfers funds to the school to cover costs of wages, maintenance, cleaning, utility bills and a ‘sinking fund’ for the All Weather Pitch (to replace the surface when required). This financial plan has been agreed between the school and The Link board. Surplus income is used to improve facilities in line with the project plan, any profit then goes back to the school to invest, as the charity is a ‘not for profit’ organisation. The Link is currently on target for the AWP sinking fund and is also planning to raise funds to extend and improve the existing facilities.
Making it work
Community users complete a booking form and agree to follow the terms and conditions of use. If they book for 10 sessions or more there is a discount. The Link are currently reviewing their pricing policy and considering introducing group discounts and benefits for ‘associated members’ such as free advertising on their website.
“The design and layout considers the community user”
Some groups are invoiced weekly; some monthly depending on what suits them. School staff and students receive a 50% discount. Clubs are requested to supply a copy of their public liability insurance up to the value of £5m. If they don’t have this in place then they are charged 10% extra to be covered under the school insurance policy.
School Cleaning staff clean the community use facilities first thing in the morning and last thing at night, they are on site during day for general cleaning and accidents then they also clean after the school day, before community use begins.
The school has been designed with community use in mind. It is a semi-circle building with the main entrance in the centre and the sports facilities and community entrance at one end of the semi-circle. There is a light and bright glass atrium area and plenty of parking. Every internal door is locked with fob access so when the community are on site alongside students they cannot access any non-community areas to safeguard students. PE storage is attached to the main practical spaces and the community can use school equipment if agreed in advance. Community clubs can book a changing room and lock their possessions inside securely. Changing rooms are often working to capacity so on occasions The Link have to use classrooms or store club possessions in the community office, which is not ideal.
- Competition locally is an ongoing challenge. There are five main North Somerset schools which all have sporting facilities open to the community. The Link are tackling this by aiming to offer the best experience and pricing to stand out from the local competition, and deliver what people want from a community venue. For example, they are looking into offering a 5 year booking slot which just requires an annual confirmation - to offer clubs additional security and sustainability.
- Raising awareness of The Link as a community venue and not just a school can be a challenge. The Link have previously marketed through their website, emails and via local press releases but are now looking at developing a marketing strategy to target specific audiences.
“Students have access to amazing facilities that enrich their education”
- The Link is used as a learning aid by students to help them understand how to run a business. Students are offered work experience at the Link and the Student Council are involved in new developments and decisions.
- The enhanced facilities and clubs based at the school provide a varied programme and keep students engaged in their education, any extra income the Link makes is invested in better facilities and services for the school.
- The Link works with and supports a strong PE department, and hosts a range of regional competitions and partner primary sporting events which attract new Students.
- An accessible, user-friendly layout is a key component to making community use successful, right from when your users approach the site.
- Have clear rules and procedures in place and implement them from the start to prevent problems occurring. For example, be clear about where community groups can park their cars, what happens if they damage equipment etc.
- Integrate your community staff into school life - The Link staff are incorporated into the same building and work closely with school staff, leading to a healthy working relationship.
- Employ someone with the right skills - the Business Development Manager brings a different perspective to the education staff and can help the school understand the needs of the community and how to operate as a business.
|Type: Academy Converter||Gender: Mixed|
Age Range: 11-18
|Location: Town,Nailsea near Bristol, Somerset||Community Users:1002 per week (average)|
|Management Model: Managed by a charitable trust|