The Role of Digital in Opening School Facilities

In 2021, Sport England released £10.1 million of Opening School Facilities funding to support schools in opening their sports facilities to help local communities, children, and young people become more physically active during evenings and weekends. Overall the initiative proved positive in getting more children and young people involved in physical activities. However, the program was not without its challenges, some of which included;

  • Staffing the school’s facilities out of normal school hours
  • Additional overheads for staff to manage and honour bookings and maintain the facilities
  • More administration for staff who need to manage bookings and open facilities

As part of the next phase of Opening Schools Facilities (OSF) it’s anticipated an additional £57 million is due to be made available for the next 3 years. Therefore, it’s vital now to create more effective strategies to manage these challenges and sustain the impact of this funding well beyond this funding period. We believe digital has a great deal to offer in this next phase.


Three criteria to deliver against Opening School Facilities funding

With the help of OSF funding, schools can mitigate or eliminate the operational challenges preventing putting their facilities at the heart of their local communities. Below we explore three key criteria schools should focus on in order to maximise the investment of Opening School Facilities funding. For each criteria we outline the role digital can play in enhancing these efforts.

Criteria 1 – Make schools’ sport facilities available out of school hours

  • Clear information on facility availability for providers and the community
  • Easy online booking process reduces administrative burden on school staff
  • Important safeguarding measures captured as part of a booking process
  • Keypad smart access can provide admittance while maintaining security
  • Track facility utilisation and financial performance in real-time

This is to enable delivery of activities for children and young people, outside of school hours; and where not being used for this purpose, the facilities should be made available to local clubs, coaches, and providers, or for the local community and for parents to book and utilise – putting school facilities at the heart of their communities.

For both providers and the community, schools need to provide clear information on their facilities, available amenities, and availability. With the aid of an easy to use digital platform, and even keypad smart access for gated pitches, schools can achieve this without placing additional pressure on school staff.


Criteria 2 – Signpost extra-curricular and wraparound care activities

  • Showcase the range of opportunities available to parents and young people
  • Providing instant access lowers barriers to book and secure a space
  • Tracking attendance, safeguarding data, and impact reporting

In order to assist parents in finding extra-curricular and wraparound care activities for their young people, activities available at their school need to be signposted to. An easy to use digital booking system lowers the barrier for parents to book and secure a space. Digital booking systems also help schools track attendance, which is useful to report on investment efficacy.

Criteria 3 – Direct young people towards local play and sport opportunities

  • Marketplaces can increase booking and revenue from community lettings
  • Dedicated digital tools for children and young people with SEND
  • National and county-wide signposting tools and discovery portals

To build on the back of the Opening School Facility funding, schools should continue to direct young people towards locally available play and sport opportunities. Building on the foundations laid by the initial funding, it will ensure sustainability and longevity of the original Opening School Facility objectives.

Through facility information, availability, and booking being brought online, a school increases its accessibility long-term, unlocking the potential of community lettings, and acting as a sustainable income generation channel. Digital sport and activity marketplaces can increase revenue from community lettings though greater awareness and digital marketing support. There are also a plethora of national and regionally-targeted websites, apps, and activity finders that cater for a variety of audiences for schools to champion and signpost parents towards.

For an in-depth exploration of the role digital has in opening school facilities, download the free whitepaper below!

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