We are now fully into the final term of the year and what a year it has been. It has made us all think about how well we can adapt and move forward as a sector with a digital world whether for teaching or marketing. I firmly believe this is a silver lining to the last year and we need to continue to be agile in everything we do and not discard this way of thinking now we are coming out the other side.
As summer holidays come up, now is the time to think about new ways to let out schools facilities commercially. This will be welcome after last year’s dismal situation where many schools had a rare experience of empty estates for eight weeks.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, it is crucial for schools to consider financial sustainability through diversifying income and not just rely on increasing school fees year after year. Fundraising development and the focus for this article: commercial lets (both during holiday and term time) is key to this diversification.
Schools need to be really clever to make up for shortfalls over the last year and do as much as they can to ensure that income is received not just on the first day of term, the first day of the month between September to June but also throughout July and August and holiday time. Schools are businesses 365 days of the year and they need to operate as such.
“You have to dig deeper and be creative and constantly think about new initiatives to build your audiences.”
Sports centres, classrooms, open spaces, facilities such as food technology, art, science and meeting rooms can be used by local businesses and groups. Summer camps and schools are one thing, but if you have facilities not being used throughout the whole day – whether term time or holiday time – they can be let out too.
I have seen schools considering experience weeks, catch up weeks, exam preparation courses, UCAS application support and university preparation courses and these are key to helping you monetise your assets. It’s not good enough to think you can roll out the same old plans, you have to dig deeper and be creative and constantly think about new initiatives to build your audiences.
International parents may or may not be keen for their children to travel abroad for a week or two so we need to look at our local audiences and courses to support what has been missed. The independent sector has been a beacon of innovation over the last year with digital learning ensuring pupils do not miss out and many parents have seen this and moved from the state sector into the independent sector to ensure their child does not fall behind. Many might consider short courses during the summer to give their child a small opportunity to get ahead.
“I don’t think the demand for online learning will diminish.”
Although there is online fatigue from many quarters, you cannot get away from the fact that it has been successful in the UK within the independent sector. Our neighbours have been constantly amazed at the programmes and lessons delivered live, unlike schools in their countries.
I don’t think the demand for online learning will diminish — although it is hard to beat face to face learning. Demand for conversational English lessons and programmes, interview technique and lessons in grammar and spelling could take off. These could be offered as a support across the year through ten week programmes to support younger pupils in-country before they decide to commit to a holiday programme and then a full year or more at school. One well known school has launched a full programme of online learning in conjunction with a leading partner in online courses so it will be interesting to see if this grows and thrives.
It’s not enough to keep increasing school fees on already stretched parents without considering all the other options for financial sustainability at the same time. It is essential to look at other options, be creative and monetise your schools assets.