It is situated approximately 2 miles from the city centre serving a wide catchment and diverse ethnicities. A recent survey identified 92 different languages spoken by the families of students attending the school.
We didn’t consider the impact on staff time, and relied on good will
The school was built on a new site of open space and, it was a condition of the planning consent that the school was open for community use.
- Sports Hall – 4 Badminton Court Sized
- 3G Pitch – floodlit
- Community Room
- Large school hall – which can be divided into two, with mobile staging, seating for 200
- Atrium – a large covered space which is not heated.
Type of community users
A range of sports clubs use the facilities as well as informal ‘pay and play’ users such as five-aside football teams. The NHS deliver a weight management clinic at the school during weekends, providing a neutral and non-medical environment for families attending. The Scouts using the atrium space to practice marching for their annual parade and Teach First use the facilities to run part of their training programme once a term.
Community use is managed in-house by the Academy Finance Manager, who deals with enquiries from the community, administers bookings and raising invoices for regular groups. This roles also involves developing new community business and monitoring the finances. The Academy also now employ a Lettings Officer who is on site during community hours, opening up the facilities, taking pay and play money and issuing receipts. The Lettings Officer also checks the condition of the facilities, deals with any on site queries and keeps the spaces clean and tidy. This management model requires good communication and regular meetings between the Lettings Officer and Finance Manager to ensure community use is managed effectively.
Making it work
Development and Consultation
The first stage in the planning process was to agree when St. Alban’s Academy could open for community use, and there were a number of factors that contributed to this decision. As the Academy has a partnership with the Church of England, it was agreed that facilities would not be available to hire on Sunday mornings. The planning permission for the 3G pitch floodlighting stipulated that the pitch could not be used after 9pm as it was located adjacent to a housing estate. The school also made a decision that they would not hire out facilities during curriculum time.
The Academy then considered their position on safeguarding and decided they would make it a condition that all clubs involving young people would have to be DBS checked before they could use the facilities. The next step was to research other community facilities in the area and put together a pricing structure that matched local charges. A proposal for community lettings was then taken to the Governors for approval, along with the terms and conditions and booking procedures. The Governors were keen that the local community should take advantage of the building and it was decided that an open day would be held to attract interest from the community. Local residents and small businesses were invited to the open day through flyers that were delivered in the vicinity. An official opening for local dignitaries also took place. These high profile events raised awareness within the community and meant that the school did not have to advertise the community facilities.
Last year (2013) the community lettings brought £30k of income into the school, enabling them to make a profit of between £20 and £25k. The Lettings Officer post is the only current outgoing and the Finance Manager believes there is potential to increase this profit next year. The school are unable to identify separate utility costs for community use, and as a new building do not have a pre-community use utility bill as a comparison. There is a tiered pricing policy in place, with a reduced rate for junior clubs. For example, the sports hall costs £30 per hour for adult groups and £20 per hour for junior groups.
The school has been designed with community use in mind, this means that the sports facilities are easily accessed from the main entrance and can be zoned without the need to open, heat and light the whole school. The community room however would benefit from having adult toilets nearby, as currently other areas of the school have to be opened to access the toilet facilities. The atrium has become a very valuable meeting place for clubs and groups to assemble before they start their session.
St Alban’s Academy is currently looking at how they can increase the capacity of their community activity, particularly between 5pm and 7pm when they have a gap in their programme. The school are exploring if a Sport England Satellite Club could be a potential solution, and they are also looking into addressing the domination of male-orientated clubs and sports. The Finance Manager has aspirations to grow the business but doesn’t have the capacity in her work schedule, so the next step is possibly employing another community role but this will need to be cost effective.
Internally, the Academy did not fully consider the extent of the administration and staffing requirements of community lettings. Making the decision to employ a Lettings Officer has helped, but this should have been considered earlier in the process. The Finance Manager currently spends 15-20% of her time on community lettings so cannot allocate any more resource to this.
Security is also an issue as during community hours the Lettings Officer is a lone worker, he is provided with a mobile phone should an issue arise, but there are still concerns should an incident occur.
An external challenge is encouraging girls to participate in the community programme. The Academy are located in a high Muslim populated area, so mixed groups would not be appropriate, and many of the clubs are male orientated. However, the Academy are currently working with a Football Coach to jointly develop a girls’ only club.
- Contributing to community cohesion – the local community have developed an interest and pride in the school
- There are financial benefits to the Academy which could be built upon.
- Ensure you have adequate staffing arrangements in place
- Keep PE staff involved in the decision making process, they will then be more helpful and contribute their ideas.
Finance Manager, St. Alban’s Academy