The one-day event which will help share great ideas and best practice on how excellent leadership of educational sports facilities can contribute to sustainable sport in schools, colleges and the wider community
To be held late January 2013
Ideas for topics, case-stories, speakers and venue are being sought
Some thoughts and observations designed to stimulate the debate
There are a large number of sports facilities on education sites. Some of these are open and well used whilst some remain closed to community access. Education-based sports facilities can contribute to the development of a sustainable environment to help grow club and community sports participation and support the delivery of great sporting experiences.
But it has to be said that there are still challenges; however the opportunities for schools and colleges to play a key role at the heart of community sport are significant. And perhaps they could generate additional income in the process.
But community sport needs to make a stronger case for involvement when educational sports facilities are being designed and built and their operation is being planned. Too often community sport only becomes involved as an afterthought – sometimes just to generate additional income for the school/college.
At the same time SMN knows of schools and community colleges where both education and community sport benefit from a more joined-up approach. Impington Village College in Cambridgeshire and Aldercar Community Language College in Derbyshire are just two examples of how enterprise can help transform education sports facilities – and in relatively small communities.
There is considerable scope for improving Education’s understanding of community sport and the positive implications for extended use of their facilities. At the same time Community Sport needs to accept that educational sites are first exactly that and they therefore have to show flexibility and cooperation and share their part of the facility costs.
Also, we should be aware that often traditional educational sites can be less than welcoming places outside school hours which makes it difficult to create great sporting and consumer experiences for Community Sport. So educational sites which adapt a ‘profit-maximising’ approach should then also improve the service and experience they provide to justify the increased rates.
There is a challenge for schools in leadership and development, particularly where with Academy status the assets are no longer within the local authority’s sphere of influence and teachers are increasingly being asked to become business development experts.
This move also presents an opportunity to review existing ways of operating the educational sports facilities and move to a more effective/sustainable model.
A Club’s ability and willingness to pay for use of the sports facilities compared with social and commercial enterprises should also be considered. We come across many clubs who display a view that they should be provided with heavily discounted facilities, as and when they want them. Compare this attitude with the one shown by the more entrepreneurial providers from outside the club framework who tends to be realistic, accepting that there is a cost and that they have to cooperate with others. Often they benefit greatly from this more flexible approach.
Personalities and relationships are key. There is a need to establish good relationships at a senior level between schools, clubs, local authorities, NGBs, clubs and others. Of course, it’s difficult to plan and legislate for people getting on but I have certainly experienced many cases where getting people in the same room and getting them to understand each other can metaphorically move mountains. Unfortunately, I also know of cases where childish personality clashes have led to some unfortunate outcomes.
Influencing the planning system for new builds can secure community use. The school/college and its community partners could both benefit greatly from early discussions and work towards developing good understanding of one another’s priorities.
Developing a shared vision and values are important for the long term sustainability of any community use. Influencing future direction, particularly in the current financial context, and discussing and agreeing on clarity on roles, responsibilities, and the difficult elements such as repairs and maintenance costs, approaches to utility costs etc. are critical at the outset.
The way educational sports facilities are governed also make a big difference. Whether they are operated by a private sector company, in-house, a Leisure Trust management or managed out of hours by the local authority or some hybrid model will make a big difference in the way the facilities are being managed. And this will then also greatly influence the community use of the facility.
And many of you will have experienced the unique challenges presented at educational sites managed under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI)!
The scope for future discussions and for the conference
What do you think? What are your experiences and suggestions as to how we can improve community use of educational sports facilities? Have you got a really good case-story to tell of a school or college, or indeed a local authority or Academy where some of the issues raised have been solved?
Also, we are looking for a venue, ideally somewhere relatively central in England, perhaps an educational sports site which can present a real live, best practice case-story. Is that you? We are hoping to attract 60 – 80 people.
We are hoping that this conference will provide a platform to help share great ideas and best practice on how excellent leadership of educational sports facilities can contribute to sustainable sport in schools, colleges and the wider community.
Conference delegates will be representing a range of roles including: operators of school and college sport sites, County Sports Partnerships, PE & school sport advisors, private operators, governing bodies of sport, sports clubs, social entrepreneurs, community groups, and local authority senior sport/leisure officers.