Bolton St. Catherine’s Academy

Bolton St. Catherine’s Academy opened in 2009 in the building of a predecessor school, and then moved to a new £36 million building in 2012

The Sports Centre of the predecessor school was managed by Serco on behalf of Bolton Leisure Trust and was not particularly accessible to students due to the pricing policy and limited facilities (no grass or all weather pitches).

The academy sponsors were clear from the start that they would implement an open-door policy for young people and provide heavily subsidised community programmes to engage the local community. The community programme was established fully during 2013 once the new All Weather Pitch was completed.

Bolton St Catherine’s now run a vibrant community programme designed to improve the life chances of the local community and working in close partnership with a range of sports clubs.


  • Sports Hall – 4 badminton court sized
  • Fitness Suite – 16 stations, mainly cardio vascular
  • Full size 4G All Weather Pitch
  • 4 Tennis Courts – Built to LTA standard
  • Custom Built Trampolining Hall – housing 4 competition beds with rig and competition level height
  • Conference Centre – used for training and coaching
  • Performance Hall – used for music and drama sessions including a resident theatre company
  • Hydrotherapy Pool with sensory lighting (owned by Firwood High School) – used for baby and toddler swimming lessons.

Type of community users

A wide range of clubs (mainly Club mark or FA Chartermark) are based at the school and Bolton St Catherine’s Academy ensure they work in close partnership with all their clubs.  

The Academy have a particularly strong relationship with Bolton Trampoline Club- a thriving and high performing club who train in the specialist hall five nights per week. Members travel from as far as Cheshire to access the excellent facilities and advanced coaching staff.

The squad participate in regional and national competitions and the club currently have 140 on the waiting list. Longstanding relationship have also been formed with two Football Clubs, Longsight Tennis Club, a Karate Club and England Handball who all use the site and work closely with the school.

British Cycling also run a Go Ride club on site and the Academy host Bolton School Games for Cycling and are proud that a past pupil is now part of the GB Cycling Team.

Two informal groups book the AWP for 5 aside games on Thursday evenings. These are ex-pupils who are now in their early-20s and the school offer the facility for free as they feel it is important, to provide an opportunity for these young men to meet regularly and maintain long term social contact with each other.

On a Saturday morning the AWP is reserved for Breightmet Wanderers, a club for local children. Although the school could hire out the facility for a commercial rate, it is part of their ethos to support clubs that offer opportunities to students.

The Fitness Suite is open for the local community to use, there is no membership fee, but a charge of £1 per session with the fifth session free. This model ensures the facility is well used by the local community, and particularly by parents exercising whilst their children are attending a club. 

Management model

Community use is managed by the Head of School, Community Sport and Science who spends approximately 40% of her time on managing the curriculum and the remaining 60% on community use and developing partnerships. The School Finance Officer raises the community invoices and monitors the budget.

Three Leisure Centre Staff are employed (two of which are students and the other is from the local community), they have a customer service role and are first aid trained.  Two of these Leisure Centre staff are on duty during community hours and their role includes setting up equipment and inducting new gym members.

The Leisure Centre staff work with the Site Managers who lock up the building and the School Cleaners who carry out any additional cleaning required for community use.

Making it work


The facilities are priced competitively and there is also a sliding scale of rates so that the more a club can demonstrate they are supporting students the more the rate is subsidised by the school. For example a club may include a certain number of students as members or may waiver the membership fee for students from challenging circumstances. The income from community lettings covers the cost of staffing, heating and lighting and the income from the 4G also contributes to a sinking fund for when the surface will need replacing.

Training and Development

Bolton St Catherine’s Academy support their clubs to operate safely and to improve their standards. They provide a training venue and run safeguarding and first aid courses, and coaching and judging qualifications. The Academy encourage their grassroots clubs to gain level 1 coaching qualifications and last year co-ordinated first aid training for over 500 students and the community, demonstrating their commitment to improving opportunities in the local area.


The sports facilities are clustered together within a sports centre complex which makes it easy for the community to access, there are community changing rooms including accessible changing and officials changing. The only negative is that the building is on five floors and built into the hillside, resulting in the trampolining hall having no ground floor access and this proved an issue when installing the competition trampolines.


The school’s approach to community use has been driven by the Academy co-sponsors who want to make a difference in communities like this and are committed to providing opportunities for young people that are accessible and are long term.


Immediate plans are to provide a seating and café area, as currently there are just vending machines and it is hoped this will be achieved over the coming months. A longer term plan is to explore potential for a new build studio so that the school can offer dance and aerobics/fitness classes to the community.


A key challenge when the programme was being established was the amount of time consumed on working with external groups and dealing with phone calls and emails from clubs at unsocial hours. However, now the programme is well established this has become less of a problem.


  • Students taking part in the community programme are loyal to the school and take ownership of the facilities ensuring they remain in pristine condition
  • There has been a reduction in local youth nuisance as a result of the community programme on offer
  • The Academy also recognise that students taking part in the clubs concentrate better in class and have formed positive relationships with staff and coaches.

Top Tips

  1. Develop relationships with your local sports partners who are passionate about sport and share your vision
  2. Get to know your clubs, encourage them to deliver activities during the curriculum, they will familiarise themselves with your students and this will break down barriers and encourage students to join the clubs.


Sara Rushton, Head of School, Community Sport and Science Bolton St Catherine’s Academy



School Profile

Type: Academy (co-sponsored by the Church of England and Crossland Academies) Gender: Mixed
Age Range: 3 -19 years Size: 1126
Location: Close to Bolton town centre and serving one of the most socially deprived and economically challenged areas in the borough. The school is co-located with Firwood High – a special school for 11-19 year olds. Management Model: Managed directly by the school overseen by the Head of School – Community Sport and Science.
No. of Community Users: Approx 10,000 per year.

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