Use Our School FAQs

Find responses you need to the most commonly asked questions regarding community use

The responses are based on tried and tested solutions and practice from the ground. Some responses will also direct you to relevant topics in Use Our School for further advice.

If you have a community use question, please get in touch using the feedback form at the bottom of the page.

Will community use cost the school money?

Community use is not about making a profit, however many schools do generate additional income. There are a variety of operation models for a school to consider which should enable you to offer a financial viable community programme – however do not expect community use to be a ‘cash cow’.

It is important to programme your activities and facilities efficiently and monitor your outgoings, all underpinned by a realistic and competitive pricing policy. The Planning and Programming and Finances sections provide further advice.

How do we fund community use as we can only spend school funds on activity that supports or improves the educational achievement and attainment of our pupils?

If the school operates an effective operational model, community use can be self financing and sometimes profitable and therefore not effect school funds.  Income generated from facility hire will cover costs of staff and utilities and a sinking fund (i.e. depreciation) if the school implement a business plan effectively. Find more information in Planning and Programming.

Community Use can also be used as a tool to support whole school improvement, especially if pathways are developed with local clubs that directly benefit your students.  Not only will increased activity improve your students health and well being, it has also been proven to impact on personal and social skills which in turn impact on behaviour and attitude within school. Find more information in The Case for Community Use.

The school wants to open for community use. Do we have to operate it ourselves or are there other ways?

No, there are several models available:

1) The school manages the facility and delivers the programme (either individually or through a cluster of schools, Academy Family/Chain etc.)

2) A third party manages community use (eg a private provider, leisure trust or facility management company)

3) The school work with the Local authority, for example through the Leisure department

4) The school set up a social enterprise or other vehicle to deliver community use

4) Or a variation on all of the above.

See the Operational Models section for further advice.

What is the best model to successfully operate community use on a school site?

There is not a one size fits all model as the size of the school, the facilities, and the programmes will all impact on how the school could operate effectively.

Currently, a large proportion of schools across the country are utilising their caretaking staff to open and close buildings and the business managers / bursars are managing the finance and invoicing. This model tends to work successfully when established clubs or groups are using the facility for block bookings. If a school wants to operate a wider variety of bookings then this model may not be appropriate. 

The Resource Bank provide a range of tools and templates including management models and sample job roles and descriptions to support you moving forward. 

How do we find users to hire our facilities?

A professional marketing and promotional strategy is key. Your local County Sports Partnership (see Who Can Help) should be able to advise you on clubs and providers in your locality and also if there are any current gaps in provision.

It is important for the school to consider what other activities are delivered locally and where the school could add value to the local community offer.

It is also worth considering what activities your own students and parents may be interested in attending, to ensure you provide a programme that is well utilised. Further information is provided in Know Your Market.

How do you monitor the impact and success of a community use programme?

Your School Vision for Community Use, should outline what success will look like and how you will measure it. Here are some examples:

A1) Income generation will potentially demonstrate success, so income should outweigh expenditure (if you are operating effectively). If this is not the case some key things you need to check are -

1) Your timetable of activities, do you have gaps, where staff are being paid but no users are hiring the facility?

2) How many spaces within the facility are being used? Do you have capacity to open up any other facilities to increase income?

3) Are you charging enough for facility hire? OR are you paying too much on salaries due to overtime or too many staff?

A2) Participation rates can demonstrate success so you will need to monitor the number of users that are visiting the facility, especially local families and students from the school

A3) Positive promotion of the school can be seen as success, so monitoring and keep evidence of any positive press in the local media due to community use.

A4) New partnerships that have been developed that are adding value to the school and the students can also demonstrate success eg local clubs supporting curriculum or after school coaching, funding to support new activities or training of volunteers etc

A5) Not all community use is all about using the sports facilities, there are alternatives for example a conference venue or offering secure parking due to being near to a local football stadium so additional income from other sources can also contribute to success.

What are our legal responsibilities if we open for community use?

The governing body or Academy Trust is ultimately responsible for the school asset so they need to be confident that either the school staff or third party provider have the necessary policy & procedures in place (such as insurance, safeguarding, health & safety etc). 

If schools are still governed by the local education authority you should make them aware that you are going to operate community use and ensure the correct insurance policy is in place. The governing body should regularly review the operation of community use and ideally have drawn up a community use policy document.  

We have limited sports facilities so is there any point opening to the community?

School facilities can offer a variety of activities for community use, (not just sport) such as classrooms for adult education, health services and fitness classes such as Zumba, pilates etc. A school does not just have to have an All Weather Pitch and sports hall to operate community use.

Our case studies demonstrate different examples of school facilities from brand new academies to old school buildings, but the most important thing to ensure is that you understand what activities are needed and can cover costs if you open up the school building.

We currently open for community use but would like to improve our facilities. Are there any funding streams for schools to access?

Sport England offer various grants that could potentially support development of school facilities – see the funding section on our website: www.sportengland.org/funding.

Any developments on a school site should encourage wider benefits and use strategic planning to demonstrate that a facility is needed.

Do we have to charge VAT?

With careful planning community use will not result in a significant VAT cost in most instances. Please see our VAT and Community Use Guidance for details.

How can we staff the facility of a weekend and still ensure that the hire charges are not prohibitive?

When reviewing your choices regarding management models it is important to consider the implications for weekend opening hours and seasonal changes affecting levels of usage. If a school are managing community use directly, then employing existing staff during weekends generally incurs additional costs due to overtime entitlements.

The alternatives are to look at current staff rotas and ensure that they are effective, consult with individuals and make suitable changes (seeking advice from your personnel/human resource manager on employment rights).

Another option is to employ new staff on casual, permanent or even on an annualised hours contracts to suit your community programme. 

How do we ensure Community Use does not conflict with the primary purpose of the school?

Community use can become an integral part of the school ethos and contribute to social inclusion and community cohesion. From the start, the school needs to be clear on the vision for community use and how it will be managed efficiently to gain maximum benefits.  Communication with the PE department & site staff is essential to ensure that facilities are kept clean & tidy so not to detriment either curriculum or community use.

We are unable to hire out our sports hall during the exam period. Are there ways to get around this?

A1) Other schools have overcome this by ‘paying' sixth form students or staff to move desks, partially clearing the hall so some activity can still go ahead.  The income generated from the sports hall hire should outweigh the cost of additional staff needed to clear the tables.  It will also potentially allow for a regular all year round booking for sports like badminton.

A2) To prevent any unexpected cancellation of community ensure your booking agreement outlines any school priority bookings such as examinations and parents evenings. You could include the school timetable if available or outline the number of weeks and in what term facilities will be unavailable.

Do all hirers need to have their own public liability insurance?

As part of the School Lettings / Community Use Agreement it is important to request a copy of the group/club's own Public Liability Insurance document. However some groups and private individuals are often uninsured. It is therefore important to check if the school's own Public Liability Insurance will cover these groups/individuals.

Please see out Insurance Guidance for full details.