Planning and programming

Like any business, your community use will need to be planned effectively if you want it to be sustainable

This will involve developing a programme of use which allows community use to grow.

Business Planning

The management model you choose will dictate how much involvement you have in developing a business plan for community use. However, in all cases it is important to understand some of the key principles, and be aware that these plans are often requested if you intend on accessing external funding. To ensure your business plan is robust, it is important to ensure the full potential of community use is considered, not just those relating to physical activity and sport.

Any business plan should be underpinned by the school’s community use vision. For example, if you identified a commitment to work with a key target group, then the needs of this group should be reflected in the programming, pricing policy and marketing strategy.

Key elements of a business plan include:

1) A summary of your vision/ethos and your operation/management model

2) An outline of your target market(s) e.g. students, staff, parents, local community groups - by demographics

3) A description of your offer e.g. your programmes, your facilities, your opening hours

4) Details of how you will sell/promote your product e.g. your staffing, pricing policy, marketing

5) A financial forecast, usually for 3-5 years, detailing income, expenditure and growth. Sport England have tools to help you with this – see the Resources section.

6) An outline of how you will measure progress and evaluate your 'business’, including key performance indicators.

7) Risks that have been identified and how they will be managed

8) Clear objectives and timescales for completion/review, including who is responsible for delivery.


Your community use programme should largely be determined by:

  • community demand for activities
  • the facilities you want to make available
  • your community use vision (priority sports and groups etc)
  • Sport development requirements and any specific requirements by NGBs/clubs
  • School requirements (outside of core hours)
  • financial viability

When devising your programme, it is advisable to make contact with local partners for their knowledge of existing delivery, such as your County Sports Partnership and local authority, and check that you will not be duplicating programmes with other local providers.

Things to consider when devising your programme:

  • Do you have any key partners which will require priority booking slots?
  • Do you need to build in any 'turn around' time between sessions, to clean a facility, set up equipment etc?
  • How will your programming change with the different sporting seasons, can you offer training facilities for clubs out of season?
  • Is it worth investing in a software system that will enable you to manage bookings and raise invoices efficiently? The ability to chase up payments will be important to enable the school to pay for any additional staffing costs.
  • Try to encourage simultaneous bookings of parallel facilities on the same day, rather than opening up for one club at a time.
  • Provide incentives for clubs and groups to make long term bookings. By encouraging a group to book more than 10 sessions in one year will generally mean there is no VAT charge.
  • Can you diversify your community offer beyond sport to increase the viability of your community business?
  • Could you fill up quiet slots by offering high income commercial lettings such as parties and 5-aside, without compromising the emphasis of your programme? Commercial lettings can help to subsidise your core development work.
  • If you are starting out, try opening on days Tuesday to Thursday initially (as these are generally the most popular evenings), then scale up as you get busier and have the resource to do so.

Here are some examples and tips on how to timetable your facilities.

The school timetable and calendar

When setting your programme you will need to consider and accommodate:

  • school timetable – such as examinations that may require use of the sports hall;
  • events calendar – such as parents evenings and;
  • facility management – such as emergency maintenance arrangements.

Consider how the school uses the site after core hours and how best to build in this interface with the management and practicalities of community activities, for example, avoid community users arriving when your school buses are departing.


Accommodating community use alongside or around examinations is often challenging. However, the long lead in times for notice of most examinations make advance planning possible.  Schools that successfully manage this make provisions including:

  • ‘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.
  • Ensuring the community booking agreement outlines any school priority bookings such as examinations and parents evenings.
  • Seeking alternative temporary locations – on and off site

Temporarily changing the nature or scope of activities (e.g. limited group size, moving from indoor to outdoor, using different equipment)

Programme opportunities for schools

Satellite Clubs offer an easy vehicle for establishing a link with a sports club. A satellite club is an extension of an existing community sports club/s in a new venue (your school) and specifically targeting the 14-25 age group. Your school will be supported by the Community club who will provide a coach and equipment to run a club session once a week.

Benefits to the school of hosting a satellite club on your site:

  • Minimal cost implications to the school
  • Links the school to community clubs that have recommended standards in place, ensuring that young people have access to attractive, alternative sporting opportunities of high quality
  • They provide a vehicle for encouraging partnerships with the school
  • An easy way to provide a stepping stone to a community club that will encourage your students and other young people beyond the school to stay in sport or to start playing sport for the first time
  • Provides a way to target specific groups, for example, focusing on disability sport or running age or gender specific sessions
  • School staff will not need to deliver the sessions. Local partners will help to set up the Satellite Club and provide the appropriately qualified workforce
  • The clubs may help to attract in further funding and opportunities as a result of their success.

Sport England has a really useful planning guide for setting up Satellite Clubs on school sites. Please visit the site here.