Many schools are left having to make extra money in order to cover costs and salaries. Charlie Bush from School Space shares how you can utilise what you already have by letting out your halls and facilities.
With education budget cuts, general rising costs and increased employer contributions into pensions, schools in the UK urgently need money. One widely underutilised way for any school to increase their budget with minimum cost is to let their halls outside of school hours. This makes use of an often-neglected resource; one that is frequently in high demand from local community groups, and even better, it doesn’t require any investment from the school.
However, in order to make significant income from lettings, there are certain steps a school must take.
Before explaining how a school can increase their budget using their facilities, it is worth mentioning that available spaces to let are not limited to halls. Halls and sports halls might seem like the most obvious choices, given that every school has at least one. But, other types of facilities can also prove lucrative for a lettings-savvy establishment.
Astroturf pitches, Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs), conference rooms and even classrooms are often popular with customers, whilst spaces such as playgrounds may also be in demand by farmers markets and car boot sales.
Putting together a dependable lettings policy
In order to let out a space, a school needs to create a lettings policy with terms and conditions. These outline the requirements that must be adhered to by anyone hiring a space and include key information for any would-be hirers. Designing a detailed and all-encompassing policy minimises risk and helps to ensure that any bookings have minimum impact on normal school life.
One way in which schools can protect their spaces from any incidents is to insist that customers pay a deposit before booking a space. They may also use their lettings policy to require that all their customers hold public liability insurance as this further protects the school from any incidents. In addition, In addition, a school lettings policy should provide up to date contact details for whomever is responsible for bookings.
Staff and caretaking
Other key aspects to a practical policy include stipulating that the space be left as found. This may require customers to conduct some cleaning at the end of their booking, limit their access to the site to the exact times of their booking, and request that noise be kept to a minimum. These terms prevent lettings from interfering with ordinary school activities. They also reduce the possibility of antagonising neighbours – a common problem for urban schools. Furthermore, the safeguarding risk posed by lettings can be severely reduced by designating lettings times to when all students are offsite, such as from 7pm onwards on weekdays.
Once a lettings policy has been written up, the only obstacles to making money from facilities are practical ones. For a start, a school needs staff to unlock and lock the venue for bookings, to show customers to their booking and check they have everything they need. Typically schools turn to their premises staff for this role. In these cases, the common issue is that they end up paying them overtime and losing much of the profit made from the letting itself. Unfortunately, there is only one solution to this: the school can try to arrange multiple bookings in different spaces at once, thereby increasing the profit generated. Nevertheless, even with single bookings, if these become regular occurrences they can still provide much-needed additional revenue for a school.
Channels to attract customers
When a school has a lettings policy and someone to staff bookings, all it needs is customers. New customers are found through either inbound enquiries or outbound enquiries.
Inbound enquiries are the least time-consuming for a school since they merely require the lettings point of contact to organise and manage. Inbound enquiries can be grown by including a designated lettings page on the school website advertising available spaces with pictures, prices and contact information.
The alternative is through outbound enquiries, which tend to be necessary in order to truly scale up lettings revenue. On the downside, they are more time-consuming since someone needs to research local clubs and activities and contact them with the aim to convince them to begin hiring spaces at the school.
Get started today
After these three key elements are in place, any school can be ready to make revenue from their facilities. Each step is not without its own difficulties but after the initial challenge of writing the lettings policy and finding people to staff bookings, the main difficulty lies in managing the actual bookings themselves and finding new customers.
If conducted efficiently, a school can enjoy significant income from lettings with relatively low effort. With lettings come other benefits too. Depending on the types of bookings, they can provide additional after-school activities for students. Lettings can also raise a school’s profile in the community by providing local groups and individuals access to the site and revealing the facilities to prospective parents.
Learn more about launching school lettings at your primary or secondary school by downloading the free guide below.
Explore your options
A simple alternative to a school having to set up and manage their own lettings is to outsource this to a lettings provider. They would create a lettings contract with the school to encompass everything included in a lettings policy and terms and conditions, staff bookings themselves and use marketing and sales teams to find new customers. The aim of companies that manage school lettings is to minimise hassle for schools while maximising profit.
Overall, any school can begin making revenue using their facilities with these guidelines. If, however, they want to grow their lettings into a serious income stream, they would need to devote significant time and resources to this and may find it easier to handover to a lettings provider to manage on their behalf.