Southfields Academy

Based in Wandsworth, Southfields Academy is a mixed use facility, open to the public during both curriculum and non-curriculum time

The NHS, local community police and adult learning have offices within the school and operate as a community service under the name and brand Aspire. Many of the 1400 students travel to the college from deprived areas because many local children go to selective or independent schools. This mixture of socio-economic and local demographics makes it challenging for the school to fulfil its desire to integrate the local community with its students and to be fully used as a community hub.

Southfields has benefited from National Lottery capital investment into community sports to build a new sports hall, changing facilities and a climbing wall. It also received £65,000 from Extended Schools, which helped to fund a fitness suite, whilst a gym extension has been funded by the Learning Skills Council.

Facilities available for community use

  • A 25 metre swimming pool
  • Floodlit 3G Football Pitches
  • Sports hall – 4 Badminton Court Sized
  • Netball courts
  • Movement studio
  • Dance Studio
  • Fitness suite
  • Climbing wall
  • Class rooms and Drama Rooms.
  • Key project information
  • Project Background

In 1998 former PE teacher Jacqueline Valin was appointed head. Based on past experience Jacqueline felt that sport was a powerful tool that could help raise standards, create an appropriate culture and boost morale. She also believed the school should be at the centre of the community, embracing its diversity, and addressing a number of issues. As a result, the school became a specialist sports college in 2000 and three years later created Aspire@Southfields. The school describes its culture as focusing on the children, the family and the community and this is the philosophy for all its activities.


Aspire@Southfields is the umbrella under which the school operate all their community services including sport and leisure provision. It works closely with the local community, include other local schools to engage everyone in lifelong learning and an active lifestyle.
Aspire is firmly linked to school life. Staff, pupils and ex-pupils help deliver Aspire’s community programmes, whilst at the same time supporting students achieve academic qualifications, such as a BTEC in sport and becoming qualified coaches or volunteers as a result.

Curriculum and community use

Community users have their own entrance to the school which is open during curriculum and non- curriculum time. Areas where the groups could meet have been designed with lockable entrances so one is closed when the other is open. The college has also found that having both groups onsite at the same times has a calming effect on the students.

Aspire Facts and Figures

19 clubs and community groups regularly hire Aspire facilities
787 active Aspire members
2000 people visit every week
150,000 people visit every year


The College is used by a number of local clubs including archery, netball, martial arts, climbing, a number of water-based sports and tennis for the visually impaired. Regional national governing bodies including tennis and cricket are allowed to use the facilities for their courses for free in return for course places. When they’re not being used by Southfields, the facilities are open to local primary and special need schools for free. This ensures the facilities deliver the best possible return - providing opportunities for local school children to take part in sports which are not offered at their own school.


The centre’s activity studios were designed with sprung floors to ensure users’ safety and reduce noise. Importantly sufficient storage has also been included to keep rooms free of equipment and intrusions. The fitness studio is used by the students for a number of curriculum activities and offers the double benefit of learning and fitness. The technology available on the machines allows science-based learning such as biology, physics and nutrition and is used by the school and community as part of the Aspire lifelong learning programme. To ensure the programmes offered reflect what users want, feedback is collected both electronically and by forms available at the centre. Most programmes are run on a termly basis; ensuring classes are based on demand and fully subscribed. The climbing wall is particularly popular and is used to develop and support student team work. There is also a progression path offered enabling college users to join a climbing club. Large sports equipment such as badminton and netball posts are also shared between users. However smaller pieces, such as balls, are held separately allowing for the differing needs of the community and school. Classrooms are fully accessible and available for use by both the school and community. Classrooms used by the community have a marked area outside of the windows (similar to the markings on the road) - indicating a student free zone. This is important during school break periods, as it maintains community users’ privacy and noise is kept at a distance. To enable the areas to be used for more than one activity, storage has been carefully thought-out, with lockable storage available in communal areas. For example, to allow for both painting, yoga and evening classes, three lockable cupboards and a sink are provided in the room and hard wearing plastic flooring which can be cleaned easily has been laid. To enable the areas to be used for more than one activity, storage has been carefully thought-out, with lockable storage available in communal areas. For example, to allow for both painting, yoga and evening classes, three lockable cupboards and a sink are provided in the room and hard wearing plastic flooring which can be cleaned easily has been laid.

Community groups

As part of Aspire’s support for the local community, the NHS, Police, Citizens Advice Bureau and adult learning all have dedicated offices within the college. This brings the community into the school and generates customers for Aspire’s programmes. For example, the kitchens are used for healthy eating programmes, linked to healthy lifestyles and physical activity, for both students and their families. The local primary care trust (PCT) and National Childbirth Trust (NCT) hold clinics at the college in addition to exercise referral schemes for adults.

The programme goes into the community through ‘franchises’ at four local primary schools where courses take place.


Southfields is aware that whilst capital funding is limited, by clearly understanding both the needs of the students and the community a funding application can demonstrate how the facility can both be linked to both the school’s objectives and those of the funding organisation. This focus and clear vision places the college in a stronger position to attract grants and has, so far, been successful with awards not only from the education sector, but from the PCT and police.

Top tips

  • Win the support of senior staff for your project and make sure it is embedded into the school’s culture.
  • Ensure what you are doing is strategic; do not chase opportunities that do not meet your core aims and objectives.
  • Plan for the outcomes you want, do not build the facilities and expect delivery to just happen
  • Understand your audience and talk to them.
  • Establish a base of core services to provide firm foundations on which to build innovative ideas.
  • Prepare to take risks and learn from lessons.
  • Make full use of the facilities and staffing you have available and think laterally about their purpose.
  • Don’t forget to plan your storage

Contact details


School Profile

Type: Academy Converter Gender: Mixed
Age Range: 11-18 Size:1466
Location: Inner city, Wandsworth, London Community Users: 150,000 per year
Management Model: Direct Management by school through Aspire brand.

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