Operational models

There are a variety of models for operating a community use on a school site

It is important that you choose an approach which can deliver your vision and business plan and is not detrimental to your core business of teaching and learning.

Check out the pair of infographic examples from Birmingham City Council under Useful links in the sidebar.

Here is a summary of the various operational models available and their key features: 







Using existing school staff

  • Good for starting small then scaling up
  • Works well if you just have block bookings from regular clubs
  • Can be a drain on your staffs time
  • Need to have a robust lettings policy and procedures in place
  • This model makes it more difficult to offer ‘pay and play’ which takes more staff time to oversee bookings.




Employing designated staff.

  • Good for developing and extending your programme
  • Good for offering a range of programmes and being responsive to community needs
  • Need to cover the costs of staff salaries therefore a higher risk model


Via an arms-length company such as a charitable trust or social enterprise

  • More proactive model as have more freedom to shape the management
  • Good for bidding for external funding
  • Can be higher risk
  • Takes time to establish
  • May require advice from external expert

Third Party

Using a commercial leisure provider or community use provider

  • School will need to have an attractive proposition for third party provider
  • Opportunity to utilise commercial expertise to maximise your community offer
  • Lower financial risk for school (if contract right)
  • Will require a procurement process and legal advice
  • School may have less control and be tied into contract

Third Party

Via a club or NGB

  • Sport specialists without a commercial slant
  • May develop from an existing club relationship
  • Will be single sport specific (unless you involve more than one club)
  • Will require a liaison within the school

Third Party

Through your LA (‘dual use’)

  • Most likely if you have good quality facilities
  • Strategic approach and part of a local network
  • Less secure arrangement as linked to local government funding

Third Party

Through a leisure trust (or equivalent)

  • Will require good facilities in the right strategic location
  • Often trusts will take on the financial risk
  • Interest in forming a long term partnership
  • Will require contract negotiations

School or Third Party

Through a consortium or network of schools

  • Likely if you have good relationships with local schools, work within a federation or Academy chain/Multi Academy trust etc
  • Procure services collectively (such as marketing) so more cost effective
  • Poses opportunities for shared staffing, centralised booking systems etc.
  • You will have less individual control

Direct Management by the school

The direct management approach means your school and it's governing body or trust would be responsible for:

  • Administering and supervising all activities within your facilities and grounds
  • Employing your own staff to manage community use
  • Collecting income and covering expenditure

You will need to consider how the management of community use fits into your own governance structure.

The Trustees of an Academy or Free School are held directly responsible for community activity, where as maintained schools may share the responsibility with the local authority. The arrangement for PFI schools will depend upon how community/non-core hours were defined in the Project Agreement, and will involve the local authority who is responsible for monitoring the contract.

Some examples:

Stanley High School – a low cost model using existing site manager and caretaking staff.

Broadway School – direct, proactive management by a PFI school employing 13 staff.

Nailsea School – operating community use through 'The Link' a charitable trust.

Hathershaw College – managing community use for a group of schools through a co-operative trust.

TOP TIP: "Visit different schools with different management models before your decide what is right for your school" Lorna Philip, Assistant Head at Hathershaw College.

TOP TIP: "Integrate your community staff into school life – 'The Link' community staff are incorporated into the same building and work closely with school staff, leading to a healthy working relationship" – Georgina Batt, Business Development Manager at The Link, Nailsea School

Third Party Management

Adopting one of the third party models will mean that Governors and trustees continue to be responsible overall but the management and administration is outsourced to a third party. This model usually works in the following way:

  • Your school and other stakeholders would undertake a formal procurement exercise to tender and appoint an organisation to manage your facilities for a pre-determined contract period.
  • The management organisation then operates the facilities in accordance with your specification
  • The management organisation may include an annual maintenance fee which is based on the operational subsidy position (previously agreed) and incorporates a level of profit
  • The management organisation is liable for any financial loss but could also benefit from any profit or an agreed profit share arrangement.

It is important that any agreements made with third party operators, emphasises the value added benefits the school expects, to protect the school from just becoming an income generating venue for the third party.

Some examples:

Downlands Community School working with Freedom Leisure – a not-for-profit Trust.

School Lettings Solutions and Schools Plus – two private sector community management companies.

Landau Forte Charitable Trust – an Academy Sponsor managing community use across a family of schools through a charitable trust.