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Published in Sports Management Sep 2016 issue 126
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

Unleashing the potential of school sports facilities

Tim Dent,

Sport and Leisure Management Director
,


In England 77 per cent of sports halls and 61 per cent of artificial grass pitches are located on school, college and university sites, yet it’s estimated that 38 per cent don’t have community use arrangements in place.

Many would agree facilities lying idle when people want to use them is a waste of a valuable resource. The investment in the school and higher education estate dwarfs that spent elsewhere, so it’s vital that access to school facilities complements other facility provision, to help realise the universal aim of a more active nation.

There are three main reasons for the current state of play. Firstly, sport and physical activity professionals are still not being included in planning and design teams, resulting in poorly specified sports facilities. Secondly, schools are often managing community programmes, but may lack the skills and experience to maximise use. Thirdly, many schools operating under private finance schemes are locked into operating contracts on inflexible terms, which penalise the opening of schools outside core hours.

Now is the time for the government to designate schools as community assets with community use designed in. Councils should also consider alternative management arrangements to maximise use.

The Facilities Inquiry (2010) recommended ‘schools must be obliged to open premises for out-of-hours school sport’, however, little has improved in the intervening six years.

"In 2010, the Facilities Inquiry said schools must be obliged to open out-of-hours "

Sport England is right to open the door to private organisations

Neil Cameron,

Managing Director,

Sport Works


For years I’ve held the belief that the public sector model restricts the benefits which can be derived from private sector innovation. This closed shop of providers stifled creativity and was a costly and inefficient way of spending public funds.

As the owner of a social enterprise, I welcome the fact Sport England wants to work with any organisation which can achieve agreed outcomes, following the publication of the new government and Sport England strategies.

Engaging with private organisations will increase competitiveness, drive down costs and improve outcomes.

If we are to encourage more people to adopt healthy lifestyles, throwing £30m into a ‘volunteer strategy’ isn’t sufficient. Who will take ownership of this programme? Which parts of society are to be targeted and by whom? What role will volunteers play?

Furthermore, the new Sport England strategy has very little detail about on how the £2.5bn fund for apprenticeships will integrate into the sport and leisure sectors. This is a key time to ensure education and sport are connected at the highest level.

However, while I can complain about the lack of detailed execution plans contained in the strategy and express frustration that several topics have been given only cursory glances, overall I feel Sport England should be commended for an ambitious plan.

I very much relish the challenge which lays ahead, do you?

Sport England is widening its funding to “any organisation” providing results / shutterstock
Sport England is widening its funding to “any organisation” providing results/ shutterstock
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