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Is your School for Hire?

With a little help from smart software, canny education establishments are sharing their facilities with the community, and bringing in new income as they do so...

  • Is your School for Hire?

With the rise of the twenty first century classroom, individual mobile devices and interactive whiteboards have become a common feature of the education landscape, and UK schools now spend £900m annually on edtech.

However, whilst the adoption of modern learning tools has been widespread, schools are only just beginning to understand the powerful potential of technology in education to transform not just the way students learn, but the learning environment itself – and even to generate fresh revenue.

Launched this year, the government’s Education Technology strategy outlines how technology can reduce teacher workload, boost student outcomes and help to level the playing field for those with special needs and disabilities.

The introduction of interactive apps and immersive, VR learning can help teachers bring education to life, increasing pupil engagement and delivering better outcomes.

Edtech is also driving efficiencies in how teachers’ days are spent, helping to liberate them from time-intensive tasks such as preparing and marking homework. This means that more time can be dedicated to providing supportive and successful learning environments.

This is all hugely positive; but efficiencies can be achieved beyond the classroom, too – and schools should be encouraged to consider how technology can help them to save time and create revenue, simultaneously.

Beyond the classroom

Education establishments are home to some of the UK’s best facilities, from sporting fields to swimming pools, and all have access to spaces such as classrooms, car parks and main halls.

Some even benefit from state-of-the-art offerings, such as performing arts spaces and recording studios. But after the school day and during holidays, many of these assets are underutilised.

By simply hiring out these facilities for use by local community groups, such as dance and sports organisations, social clubs, holiday camp providers and charities, schools can generate significant annual revenues.

Technology is forming a critical part of this opportunity. By implementing a simple, online booking tool, educational institutions can centralise what can be a complicated administrative process, from booking to billing.

Driving efficiency

Handling the logistical, legal and financial aspects of hiring out school facilities can seem like a time-consuming and burdensome task, which can divert resources from core school business.

However, space lettings software can provide total administration systems, including a room booking tool, white-labelled website, automated invoicing, online payments system and automated communications.  This empowers schools to let out their facilities in a time, resource and cost-effective manner.

“The ability to open up our facilities for use by local groups and clubs is important to us and we have a surprising number of staff involved in managing the bookings of our facilities,” observes Sasha Chard, marketing and development officer at Haydon School.

“Since adopting an online lettings platform, not only has it delivered significant time efficiencies for staff involved, it has meant that we can be much more efficient with hiring space.

“This in turn has freed up valuable time, which can be dedicated to educational-related tasks and the further development of educational opportunities outside the classroom.”

Boost the budget

There is also a compelling financial rationale for schools to open their facilities to other institutions and the local community. Schools using online booking tools can generate average annual revenues of £70,000; and up to £470,000 per year for larger secondary schools.

The fresh revenue can be reinvested into school’s facilities, staffing or even to offset existing deficits. At a time of intense pressure on educational budgets in the UK, many schools would benefit from capitilising on existing resources.

“Since investing in an effective online lettings tool to hire out space in Bushey Arena, our state-of-the-art £30 million multi-purpose venue, we have seen our revenue increase upwards of 200%!” confirms Clive Hibbert, venue manager of Bushey Academy.

“This additional revenue made from hiring out our facilities to the local community can be reinvested back to the Academy to improve teaching facilities for our students, and provide them with the best possible opportunities to learn, develop and grow as people.”

Heart of the community

Opening up facilities for use by local clubs, charities and business promotes community cohesion and integration, helping to reduce societal boundaries and barriers.

Technology can help educators to manage the safety and insurance aspects of letting facilities, ensuring that proper compliance, insurance privacy policies and documentation are in place.

“We are extremely privileged to have state-of-the-art facilities, which provide the best learning environment for our young people, and that we are able to offer for use by the local community,” says Rachel Snowdon, lettings manager at Manor Church of England Academy.

“Having introduced the technological lettings feature, we are now able to efficiently manage our diverse range of clients and allows us to continually grow our connections within the community.”

Used well, edtech has the powerful ability to drive down costs through time and administrative efficiencies, and generate important additional revenue streams for schools – all of which contribute to improved learning outcomes for students; the ultimate goal for both educators and the Government.

7 ways to add value to your facilities

When hiring out your space for community use, the following tips will help you to develop a business that is as seamless and efficient as possible:

1 | Use all of your school’s assets

Anything from car parks to classrooms can be let out, and every asset owned, including overhead projectors and interactive whiteboards, can increase a school’s lettings value significantly

2 | Appoint a lettings coordinator

If possible, nominate one person to take responsibility for lettings – this could be the business manager, or a dedicated manager who will take ownership over your lettings.

3 | Minimise administrative burden

Adopt an online bookings system which can holistically manage the four essential elements of lettings – marketing, bookings, payments and communication – to ensure a streamlined and efficient approach.

4 | Market your school

Marketing will support sales. Some online booking systems provide expert marketing advice, with in-built features such as SEO (search engine optimisation), enabling schools to maintain a strong, targeted web presence, promoting your facilities to potential hirers.

5 | Stay ahead of regulatory developments

Regular software updates to your online booking system should ensure that you are fully compliant with legal, regulatory and technological developments.

6 | Be price sensitive

This is important for you and your clients.  Price your space competitively, and be aware of other facilities in your locality and what they are charging to ensure you are offering reasonable hire rates.

7 | Provide a great customer experience

Although much of the lettings administration process can be automated, via convenient lettings software systems, someone should always be available to answer questions and respond to queries.  Ensure your site team are offering a top-quality service to customers and users whilst on site.

Chris Smith is head of community at Kajima UK.

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