The Impact of School Lettings: Leigh Academies Trust
The Impact of School Lettings: Leigh Academies Trust
Leigh Academies Trust is one of the biggest multi-academy trusts in the country based in Strood, Medway. We are proud to be the exclusive school lettings partner of this incredible trust that exists to support and assist schools to build upon their existing strengths and achieve rapid educational transformation.
It's easy to forget how big an impact school lettings can have on our schools and multi-academy trusts. The reality is that it goes far beyond revenue and can majorly improve school business operations. This term, we sat down with Simon Woodridge and Jo Allen from Leigh Academies Trust to hear all about their experience outsourcing school lettings for 32 schools to Vivify at the beginning of this year. Read on to find out how it works for them.
Why do you choose to offer a community lettings programme?
Simon: We’re a community organisation and we want to support the young people that attend our academies. It offers our young people extracurricular activities that they wouldn’t be able to access without us hiring out those facilities.
Jo: We also like to build those relationships with our local communities and our academies.
Can you compare what it was like before and after working with Vivify?
Jo: A lot of hard work!
Simon: Before working with Vivify the general organisation of lettings used to take up around 60% of my day. And I would say even more for the team. We love our hirers, but as small business owners, some can have quite demanding needs. Lettings would often impinge on the day-to-day running of our core business. In terms of measuring cost of the time vs benefit, it just didn’t balance for us.
Jo: Chasing payments for invoices, a lot of time was spent on this. It was very time-consuming and demanding. As an estates function, we found ourselves concentrating on the non-core business activity, rather than our core business of education. For me, that’s the biggest change we’ve seen since Vivify has come on board for us. We’re now able to spend time fixing the environment making it right for the kids rather than dealing with the admin of lettings.
How was your lettings programme running previously and what were the challenges?
Simon: Finding in-house staff and managing them was a challenge. We had all of the HR issues, the management of the staff, recruitment of staff, even the processing of their pay claims, all of which was a challenge for our finance, operations, and HR teams. Through lettings, we’ve managed to make improvements for all of these departments.
What kind of challenges did having 32 schools, and 32 lettings programmes present for you?
Simon: In terms of the spread of 32 academies, trying to manage that equally and fairly for each of the academies. We tried to run it centrally, but naturally, it would be the academies that were in the best locations that got the love because they were the easiest wins.
For us, the promotion and the marketing of it was always a huge challenge as it’s not our area of expertise! Lots of time was spent on it.
The biggest difference is that you guys are a professional outfit, and this is your day job.
Jo: Before you guys were running it, individual academies had more say on what pricing they could offer. But now we have a proper pricing structure in place, it has taken away any kind of issues this could present! It’s completely different and it’s working!
What are the positive changes you've seen now?
Simon: The problems previously mentioned are solved for us. Internally it’s given some clarity on who deals with what and it has enabled the central departments along with the academies and their teams to put their efforts into the core delivery. For us, that’s the biggest bonus. Also, seeing the way you guys can market what we do and take away the headaches of having to deal with any issues, I think that’s huge.
The experience we receive, and our customers receive is fantastic.
With lettings, there is always going to be the odd blip, but my experience is when there is a blip Vivify deals with it quickly and responsively.
Financially it’s proven it's working. We set a budget with you at the beginning and considering it’s been 6 months –you guys overachieved by over 10% in terms of LAT income. We were very happy with that result so far.
How do you find the day-to-day running of the lettings with Vivify?
Simon: There's nothing negative to say at all. The experience we’ve received is really, really positive. Our academies feel the same way in terms of the quality of what they’re receiving. Whenever there are any issues, it’s acted on and dealt with.
No fuss, nothing ever seems like it’s too much of a problem. It just happens, and for us when we’ve got a million and one things going on, it’s exactly what we need.
Jo: Your Head of School Relationships, Debbie is completely on the ball, and if she’s not available, another member of the operations team will jump on it. We have a fantastic team who look after us. We’re very happy with that. The whole approach is what’s won us over.
How much involvement do you have in lettings since working with Vivify?
Simon: Hardly any, myself and Jo meet with your Director of Operations and Head of School Relationship monthly. We have the occasional email exchange about a very specific hirer issue.
Put it this way, it’s not something that plays on my mind at 2am anymore!
Do you have any specific examples of problems we have solved?
Simon: We had an issue at one of our academies and the actions you took for us, meant that we were able to satisfy everything we needed to do concerning the hirer and the lettings at that academy. If that had happened 3 weeks before you took over, it would’ve been a total different panic for us.
We would not have been able to do what you did for us in that short space of time, and that was recognised right at the top from our CEO right through to the teams on the ground.
Simon: It’s released so much time for us because you are undertaking the locking of our buildings, we’re able to redeploy staff and use them in a much more effective way. It’s a by-product of you being here.
We’re able to redeploy those hours back into the core purpose. We're now able to start putting business into academies that have never had it before. So we're benefitting more academies. We don’t need to recruit anywhere as much as we used to have. This summer we only recruited three people!
Where does any revenue generated get invested?
Simon: Our revenue goes directly to the academy where the hiring took place. We give principals total autonomy, in terms of how they spend it. Some will use it to prop up a gap in the budget. Others will invest in all sorts whether it be sporting facilities, or supporting departments. It’s definitely been used for teaching and learning and resources. One of our primary academies used a portion of it for a reward trip for some of their kids.
What's the single biggest change you've seen for the trust/ best thing about working with Vivify?
Simon: I think nowadays we put in very little effort to receive our cheque at the end of the month!
Jo: We don’t get calls out of hours anymore. Issues at sites are all managed by Vivify, which has taken a lot of pressure off the team.
Considering outsourcing lettings?
Here at Vivify, we understand the time pressures and financial challenges, schools are facing across the UK. A robust lettings programme can help tackle some of these issues while enhancing your school’s reputation.
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