Schools should be committed to the provision of additional opportunities for their pupils, their families and the wider community. The school buildings and grounds are a valuable community asset and every reasonable effort should be made to enable them to be used as much as possible.
Lettings for any purpose other than those of the school itself are within the authority of the school. Any activities permitted should not cause difficulty in the delivery of education and should meet the general guidance laid out in the school’s Lettings Policy.
Letting categories and charging levels
There are three distinct categories of letting and potential charging levels:
- Activities run for the benefit of school pupils: Activities that support the school or its pupils directly, or benefit the school itself. For example, after school and breakfast clubs, uniformed organisations and extra-curricular activities for which a charge is made (e.g. recorder lessons, holiday play schemes). For voluntary organisations, charges could be made to cover costs of heating, lighting, water and consumables (e.g. paper towels and toilet rolls) only.
- Community activities: Activities that are for the benefit of the wider community, possibly including pupils from the school, and are organised by non-commercial or charitable bodies; for example, drama rehearsals for community productions and the Local History Society. Community groups could be charged a subsidised rate, fixed at a rate to cover all the costs incurred by the school (heating, lighting, water, cleaning, wear and tear). There would not normally be an additional charge where school equipment is used. Where there are multiple lettings at the same time, the costs incurred would normally be shared between them.
- Commercial lettings: Hiring by appropriate organisations of a commercial nature; for example, training companies and slimming clubs. The charge for such lettings should be based on the community charge, together with a profit element. There would probably be an additional charge where school equipment is used.
Management and arrangements
Generally, the headteacher is responsible for the management of lettings whilst the school office administers bookings and sends invoices for booking charges. The headteacher will determine whether lettings are appropriate and, where they have concerns or wish to decline a booking, they will consult with governors.
Some regular users may be provided with their own keys to the building, through a nominated individual, provided that certain agreed conditions can be met. These include signing the key holders’ register and the undertaking of security training.
Schools should have some form of ‘Conditions of Hire Document’ which all hirers will read and sign, and provide evidence of their public liability indemnity. Copies of appropriate risk assessments for activities to be undertaken would be requested from the hirers where deemed necessary by the headteacher.
Opportunities to maximise income
Many schools run activities that can generate regular, additional income streams and added to this, many events can have a direct input from pupils in the organisation and management. The traditional avenue of lettings can mean a good, steady income, but also enables a school to be seen in a positive light with its surrounding community.
There are many organisations (and businesses looking for training or conference facilities) who could be interested in using school facilities, such as halls, classrooms or the school grounds. It is important to find out what societies, and other groups, operate in your locality. Ask colleagues what lettings they have in their schools – quite often organisations look for alternative venues to grow in to. Also, check for new groups being set up in the local media who might be looking for venues.
It is becoming increasingly common for companies to look for venues for holiday camps, not only sports camps but arts, crafts and music camps, too.
Another easy source of income can be through charity clothes banks on site that are easily accessible and visible to the wider community. Most charities will site one for free and collect on a regular basis, splitting the value of the clothes with the school.
Increasingly, schools are holding larger scale events such as music festivals, beer festivals, circus performances or concerts. All of these events can take time and energy, but with good planning and teams working together, they can be fantastic community events and raise significant profits.
It is important to be mindful of licensing conditions and it could be advantageous for a school to apply for a premises licence to cover all events. This is an easy process that a parent-teacher association (or equivalent) could apply for on behalf of a school. Please note that the cost of putting the application in the local media can be incredibly costly but it has to be done as part of the conditions.
Many schools work with a local church to support services with alternative venues or for services such as Messy Church; alternatively, they may look for venues for holiday sessions.
Using the site to host car boot sales, nearly new sales, etc. can generate income, particularly when you add in secondary revenue streams such as refreshments or bouncy castles. The most successful school car boot sales are held on a regular basis during the Spring and Summer, maybe once a month. The dates are advertised early so that people have a good level of advanced notice.
Schools could also look to hold regular quizzes that are open to the wider community, not just parents and families; linking with a local church or a pub could support this. It could be that a local organisation needs additional parking spaces out of school hours and so a mutually beneficial agreement could be made.
Manageability and effectiveness
A key question to ask is how can the school work out whether an idea is manageable and whether it will be effective? This is tricky as all schools are different in terms of staffing, the site itself, the support it receives from the wider community and, in particular, volunteers.
The schools that are most successful in terms of generating income are the ones that aren’t worried about taking calculated risks and are flexible and realistic with what can be achieved. A good place to start would be to send out a questionnaire to families and local community groups, such as the pub, library, community association, local councils and shops, to see if there is any extra provision that they might look for from the school.