Wright Robinson College was selected for a new build PFI scheme in September 2007 on the original school site. There was no community use prior to this as the facilities were so poor, but the Head teacher and governing body have always had a passion for community use. The PFI facilities allocated to the school (including a swimming pool and double sized Sports Hall) were further enhanced by a £2m NOF grant for additional community facilities including a fitness suite, two dance studios and an additional sports hall creating a commercial sized sports and leisure complex.
We have a long term vision for community use
As a PFI school, the community lettings were initially managed by the PFI Facility Management provider, Hochtief. Jon Marshall, who was at that time the Schools Partnerships Co-ordinator, liaised with Hochtief on behalf of the school and advised them on the leisure provision.
Wright Robinson College have now taken over the community use management and Jon’s role has evolved into a dedicated Community and Business Development Manager, enabling him to realise his long term vision for community use. The business development side of this role refers to identifying and bidding for external funding which is an ongoing process. Currently the school are building a third All Weather Pitch (AWP) as there is a waiting list for their existing two AWPs, this was financed using £140k from school funds and £260k from the Football Foundation. They have also been successful in securing funds for an indoor climbing wall.
Sports Hall – 8 Badminton court sized with tiered/bleacher seating for 1000 (generally let out as 2 separate halls with a dividing wall but the arena seating also allows them to host 25-30 major events each year)
Sports Hall – 4 Badminton court sized (situated on the floor above the 8 court hall)
2 x Dance Studios
Weightlifting room –facility exclusively for weightlifting (the school offer weightlifting within the curriculum and also host a club)
14 Changing suites - accommodating 25 children in each or 15-20 adults in each
Seminar/ meeting rooms
25m Swimming Pool
Climbing wall (from Sep 2013) - situated on the wall of the 4 court hall, but without compromising court run off areas.
2 x full-size floodlit All Weather 3G Pitches (soon to be 3 to meet the demand)
MUGA – 8 outdoor floodlit tennis/netball courts
8 lane athletics track which is 120m long used for sprinting with a long jump and triple jump pit – used by local athletics clubs.
Type of community users
80 – 90% of the Sports Hall and AWP bookings are community clubs and associations making block bookings. Whereas the Swimming Pool and Fitness Suite have more of a mix of clubs and ‘pay and play’ type activity.
The types of clubs using the Wright Robinson College’s facilities range from local voluntary through to elite. The school host Northern Thunder Netball Club who play Super league netball and they are also home to Manchester Giants Basketball. As elite clubs, they each have service level agreements with the school which outlines their concessionary rate, hours of access to facilities and additional use of fitness suite etc. for training. Other clubs and groups complete a general booking form and these include a swimming and water polo club, a dance school, Yoga group, Brazilian Soccer Schools, Bokwa Fitness and Socatots.
The Swimming Pool is run very productively with a total of 5,852 visits made to the pool last financial year for public swimming and swim schools. The pool is used during the curriculum at KS3 and 4, as well as for lunchtime and water polo clubs, adult one to ones, scuba clubs and swim parties. 10 local primary schools use the pool once a week for swimming lessons using Wright Robinson’s Swimming Instructors. A ‘Learn to Swim’ programme (for 5 years plus) use the facility on a weekly basis and have over 380 members. The pool is also a regional training venue for the ASA.
The Fitness Suite is used by Students during the curriculum, then from the off-peak times of 4.30-6pm for an ‘Active Parent and Carer’ programme which is free to anyone who has a child at a school in Gorton. From 6pm, it becomes a typical gym with monthly membership and around 70 gym members using a direct debit payment method.
The school’s only quiet community period is Friday evenings when most clubs don’t tend to book as they have fixtures on Saturdays. However, the school are in the process of developing, through StreetGames, a programme of ‘doorstep sport’ activities on Fridays. Local disadvantaged young people will have an opportunity to try out sports such as badminton, table tennis, rollerblading/skating etc.
Community use was originally run by Hochtief the commercial facility management provider but after three years the arrangement was reviewed and the school decided to take over the community use management. This decision has allowed community use to flourish and the school have been able to treble the turnover in the last 12 months.
“As a PFI school there are complex relationships and contracts to manage”
Wright Robinson College manage and employ all the staff that work for the community arm known as Wright Robinson Leisure and the facilities are marketed as a leisure centre style venue.
The Community and Business Development Manager reports directly to the Head teacher and manages a large team with 5 or 6 leisure staff on duty at any one time.
The School Games Organiser is employed three days a week in this role, and for the remaining two days covers some of the operational work to free Jon up to concentrate more on development and funding tasks.
There is a full-time person employed to manage bookings, lettings, finances and data collection. There are two Leisure Managers that work 50 hours per week between them. The Leisure Managers oversee a Full-time Receptionist and a team of 10 Leisure Attendants (3 or 4 on duty at any one time). The Swimming Pool is looked after by an Aquatic Manager, Assistant Aquatics Manager, Aquatics Teacher and 3 Swim Coaches.
Making it work
As a PFI school there is an important interface between the school, FM provider and local authority. This is managed through a weekly forum with Hochtief FM the school and the Community and Business Development Manager. A wider group including the city council meet on a monthly basis. These forums deal with community use related issues including maintenance and logistics and this partnership approach is working well.
Cleaning and Maintenance
All maintenance requirements are captured in a PFI maintenance log and the helpdesk have a prescribed number of days to respond with a temporary and/or long term fix. There is a rigid system in place for handover, so at 3.30pm a member of the PE staff and Leisure staff walk around the facilities together to carry out an inspection and log any issues/maintenance requirements. At 10pm, the Leisure staff will then carry out the same inspection once community use has finished for the day.
The cleaning staff are all employed by Hochtief FM, so rather than paying an additional charge for a second clean; the school have changed the cleaning times. Now Hochtief carry out a deep clean of the facilities at 6.30am to ensure they are clean for the students arrival on site. At 3.30pm/4pm the leisure staff carry out a quick clean to ensure the facilities are acceptable for community use. This is not an ideal solution but is the best approach that can be found at present.
There is a unitary charge for facilities (electricity gas and water) which is index linked and the school put aside funds each year. For the leisure facilities this is currently £85k per year. Unfortunately the leisure facilities are not sub-metered so it is unclear how accurate this is and the school are currently in discussions with the council about resolving this issue.
The leisure facilities must as a minimum break even (as they are not allowed to be subsidised by the school) and in addition to the Leisure staff costs there are also the costs of employing a Hochtief Caretaker to open and close the facility (required for insurance purposes) which is £18k per year. These outlays can make it difficult to generate a surplus.
There is a two tier pricing structure for community use– a commercial rate and a concessionary rate. The concessionary rate covers junior clubs, the unemployed, women, girls and people with disabilities.
The leisure facilities are conveniently situated together at one end of the school (on 3 levels) although the school did have to spend additional money to ensure the school could be secured when the leisure facilities were open. There is a community entrance and reception similar to that in most leisure centres. There are some times when students and external groups are in the centre at the same time, but using different facilities and there are always leisure attendants on duty to manage this.
The changing rooms have community lockers and students have their own lockers in the corridors.
There is a Bistro area with kitchen facility which is used by students during the day and run by Hochtief. It is easier for this area to be closed during community use rather than setting up an additional agreement with Hochtief for Leisure to use it. Instead, hot and cold drinks are served from the leisure reception area, and for special events catering vans are booked in. The school have a healthy eating and no vending policy.
The facilities are marketed via a dedicated Wright Robinson Leisure section on the school website. Due to a large footfall a lot of the marketing is delivered via banners and notice-boards on the school site as well as some leaflet drops to local communities.
Special Projects – Netball
Wright Robinson Leisure have established a partnership with Dominoes Netball Club, Manchester Thunder Netball Club, Greater Manchester County Netball and Manchester Leisure Services. The alliance have accessed a grant of 80k to install a brand new floor in the sports hall and to purchase spectator seating which has enabled the College to host elite Netball and Netball Superleague matches. In addition, there are strong club links between the school and Dominoes Netball Club and a range of activity programmes that have been established through the network.
The project is now two years old and the centre has become a central hub for netball development from grass roots to elite netball and international fixtures.
- It is an ongoing challenge balancing income and expenditure, particularly regarding accurately recording the utilities used and paying an accurate price.
- The maintenance regime – even though there are systems in place it is a challenge to keep on top of the FM reporting process, and checking the rectifications and periods allowed for maintenance and repair.
- From a programming point of view, it is difficult to fill the Sports hall and AWPs during a quiet period between June and August when most of the clubs have finished using them. It is a good time to carry out maintenance and tidy up storage etc but the school are also exploring alternative avenues for generating income. This includes looking into non-sporting uses such as exhibitions, and they are hosting the National School Chess Championship this year for the first time.
- Storage space is always at a premium; in particular elite sports have requirements for equipment storage space on site. The school are currently exploring funding opportunities for providing additional storage capacity.
Students benefit from the opportunity to access a wide range of clubs and generous leisure provision, with activities beyond 6pm. A large number of local primary schools use the pool and dance studio and this is good for student recruitment.
“Students benefit from fabulous facilities and opportunities on their doorstep”
The high quality events and elite sports that take place on site are good for the profile of the school and some students are attracted to the school because of the partnership with elite clubs.
Having these fabulous facilities on their doorstep, means clubs can offer subsidised activities to the students and they can participate in climbing, roller-skating etc. gaining access to new experiences and sports.
- It is important to have the correct infrastructure in place – there are a lot of systems and procedures required to ‘make it happen’ these include Health and Safety, Insurance, systems for handling money and security of the school. Jon now advises other schools on these necessary systems and procedures.
- Exploit external funding opportunities - there is still money out there but it is about identifying the right opportunities and having the skill to make successful applications. It helps to have a person with development funding as part of their role.
- Part of Wright Robinson’s success is that they see themselves as a development centre rather than a leisure/community centre– they are always looking ahead and are pro active in looking for new partnerships and projects.
|Type: Foundation School||Gender: Mixed|
|Age range: 11-16||Size:1750 with Community Users: Over 2000 per week|
|Location: Inner City, Gorton, Manchester||PFI school|
|Management Model: Direct management by school|