Our Business Development Manager, Dom Forgione, joined the BookingsPlus team in January 2020. Dom is responsible for growing our Education sector customer base, through the promotion of our lettings software product, alongside other tailored services we can offer, in order to boost lettings income in schools. Dom talks daily with School Business Managers, and more recently MAT Estates and Operations Directors about how they can maximise the use of their available spaces. Here, Dom shares his thoughts on how vital public facilities are to their local communities and how, getting the management of lettings right will have an impact not only on a venue’s community but on its ability to generate additional income.
Unlocking schools’ full potential: Making the most of school assets to service our communities, as well as generate income
By Domenico Forgione, Business Development Manager
“At a time when public facilities and local services are more stretched than ever, many schools are assuming a leadership role in addressing the health and wellbeing, cultural, and learning needs of the wider community by providing greater access to their facilities. This is crucial in a post-Covid world, where we are seeing rising demand for facilities that support physical exercise, community engagement, and other activities that bring people together.
There is a clear mutual benefit: schools can charge a reasonable fee for the use of facilities, raising much-needed revenue, while communities gain access to facilities, with all the physical and mental well-being benefits this can bring. New technology, alongside a selection of professional lettings services is making it easier for schools to coordinate the hiring out of their facilities, leaving them to focus on the core functions of running their school, offering a twofold opportunity to be grasped with both hands.
As one example, Kajima Community worked with Wooldale School in West Yorkshire to host 18,944 hours of community group activity last year. A total of 164 different groups, from all walks of the local community, were welcomed to the school facilities to participate together in a variety of social, sporting and learning activities. On top of the clear social, cultural and health benefits this brought, it raised over £170k in additional revenue.
The biggest challenges schools face in replicating Wooldale School’s success is making community groups and the general public aware of the facilities they can use in first place, and then allowing people to book. Understandably, doing this well takes time, and schools can’t always prioritise it when there are young minds to educate. This means that potential is untapped, as community groups often don’t know which facilities are available or can’t work out how to book them.
As an experiment, I recently called a dozen schools to hire a sports hall, and on average it took more than five days to confirm and secure a booking. In a world where a click on a smartphone can allow us to order something online and often receive it the same day, this is an untenable, outdated model, that will no doubt put off potential users.
We spoke to two of our long-standing customers – Lionheart Education Trust, who engage with our BookingsPlus lettings software platform, growing their number of venues from four to fourteen in just over five years, and Walthamstow School for Girls, who contract our team of dedicated BookingsGuru’s to deliver an admin and marketing service, increasing their lettings income by 82% since contracting with our service.
Both solutions help to create an online shop window where potential customers – local people, local groups – are able to view in detail the facilities that are available, when they are available, quickly book a time slot and then provide an easy way for schools to then coordinate the ongoing management of the lettings, such as online payments, access to centralised lettings information, convenient and compliant document storage area etc. either through the software itself or via our professional team of coordinators. Click either of the links to find out what benefits these schools are gaining from working with us.
With budgets tightening and a need to focus all time, effort and resources on education, having an expert solution that can remove all the hassle and best handle the marketing, administration and booking systems for amenities can allow schools to become dynamic centres of community life.”