Rather than let their first-class facilities lay dormant over the long summer holiday, many schools are now hosting a variety of summer sports camps, schools and academies. And there are, essentially, two options: running your own events, with all training provided by school staff, or simply using your facilities to host events run by a third-party provider. Here is how four leading independent schools are keeping their playing fields and pavilions busy through the summer.
Case study 1: Canford School
The first Canford Summer Sports Academy was held in August 2012 – and has gone from strength to strength every year since then. “For a number of years previously we’d had enquiries from parents about the possibility of running such a camp, in order for children to take advantage of the school’s excellent sports facilities and to develop their sport through specialist coaching,” reveals Canford’s Director of Sport Mark Burley. Since their inception, Canford’s Academies have been a huge success: over 180 pupils from Year 5 through to Year 11 took part in last year’s instalment.
Pupils choose a specialist sport to focus on over four days – typically rugby, hockey, football and netball, with the first three sports open to both boys and girls. “After the success of the first Academy, we had enquiries about a Multisports option for younger children who would like a range of sports to enjoy during the week,” Mark explains. “The resulting Multisports four-day course for Years 5-7 was introduced in 2013 and proved extremely popular. These children still have the opportunity for some specialist coaching, but also enjoy swimming, climbing, rowing and trampolining during the week.”
The Academy’s popularity has exceeded expectations, with each year’s places filling up fast.
Mark and his staff were clear from the start that they wanted to use the talent they had in situ, rather than letting an external team run the Academy. “With the top-quality coaching staff we have at Canford, we wanted to offer children from the local area – current pupils, potential pupils and those from other schools –an excellent, tailored sporting experience from our own school coaches. It is also a great way for our sports staff to introduce potential pupils and their families to what is on offer here.”
Any advice to other schools thinking of setting up a similar venture? “The key is to ensure that you have a central point of contact for administration of all enquiries and bookings, and that access to information about the course is available online. We have all our information available, including booking forms, through our main school website. It is also important to ensure that you have plenty of support on the sporting side. While coaches are focusing on the sessions, gap students and other helpers are essential as extra pairs of hands, particularly if you have large numbers of children onsite at any one time.”
Case study 2: Oundle
For the past seven years, Oundle has made its swimming pool available for the local community.
“The increasing external use of the swimming pool and diversity of the swimming pool staff – including climbing wall instructors, sports and recreational coaches for Oundle School Enterprises – highlighted the need to restructure,” explains Swimming Pool Manager Teresa Black. Now, a variety of non-residential courses over the holidays includes a Rookie Lifeguard course, Oundle Otters Swim School intensive lessons, snorkelling and water polo sessions and climbing wall sessions.
Like Canford, Oundle have decided to use school staff, rather than external personnel, to run the sessions. Here, it’s largely a case of already having the talent there to draw on. “The staff at the swimming pool hold all of the qualifications required for the courses and are already involved in the activities with Oundle and Laxton Junior School pupils.
“Our pool staff qualifications range from swimming instructors and pool lifeguards to fitness and climbing wall instructors, with most full-time staff qualified in many of the areas. We encourage this kind of involvement and skills development, which benefits customer care, job satisfaction and diversity. And of course this diversity of skills has extended the range of activities offered to school pupils as well.
For Teresa, the benefits are clear. “It means that contacts and relationships are already established with the community. Delivering courses internally also ensures that Oundle’s high standards and excellent reputation are maintained.”
Advice for others keen to follow in the Oundle footsteps? “Vary the courses,” urges Teresa. “Courses should be available to differing ages and abilities. Staff need to be knowledgeable and well equipped – and to enjoy the sessions and make them fun for the children! Work as a team – brainstorm for new ideas and feedback after the events.”
Case study 3: Haileybury
Haileybury hosted its first soccer school programme run by Tottenham Hotspur Football Club back in 2013. “Our soccer school programme went through a complete rebranding phase, whereby we realigned all of our evening and holiday programmes with well known, high-quality schools with fantastic sporting facilities,” explains Chris Acaster, Coach and Programme Administrator at Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.
“These action-packed player development sessions give young players the chance to learn and improve their game outside school hours. All of our sessions are hosted by our dedicated team of full-time coaching professionals. Using their experience and guidance, our coaches give every player the chance to learn the essential football skills and techniques of the game.”
At Haileybury through the holidays, Tottenham offer both day soccer schools and also a summer residential programme run by Spurs FA and UEFA qualified coaches, creating a fun and rewarding environment for young players. “Our residential programme offers players aged 9 to 15 years an unforgettable week of football, where players stay and play whilst learning the Tottenham Hotspur Way,” Chris continues. “During our week of football coaching and technical workshops, our team of professional coaches focuses on the key attributes needed for each player to maximise their potential. These include a focus on the social, physical and psychological aspects needed by individual players. In addition, we organise activities for the evenings, so that the fun continues once the players have left the pitch. There’ll be sports-themed games nights, football quizzes – and a London walking tour.”
Case study 4: Trent College
Trent College hires its facilities to an external company, Activate Sport, who run summer camps at the school. Previous camps hosted by the College have included the Freddie Flintoff Cricket Academy and Leicester Tigers Rugby Academy.
“We are now in our eighth year of operating at Trent College,” explains Toby Mitchell, Director of The Activate Group. “Our courses often focus on specific sports and the facilities at Trent College give us the perfect opportunity to deliver high-quality programmes.
“There is a commercial gain to hosting the summer camps – but primarily it’s providing a wraparound holiday daycare solution for parents,” explains James Gregory, Director of Operations at Trent College. “The quality is good, the kids enjoy it and have a great time (especially when the weather’s good), and it provides a service not just to parents of pupils at Trent College and our junior school, The Elms, but also to many other families locally.”
What advice would you give to other schools thinking of setting up a similar venture?â€‹ “Look long-term. We enjoy woking with Activate Sport and are pleased to have developed the relationship we have with them over eight years. Look to get a long-term agreement in place that gives you both assurances.”