Perfect pitches

From general upkeep to cost-saving software, we consult the experts on maintaining sports facilities

In top condition

Over the past seven years, Yarm School has invested heavily in its infrastructure, including its sports facilities – ranging from all-weather pitches and various synthetic grass systems to the increasingly popular multi-use games areas (MUGA) – to accommodate its extensive sporting calendar.  

Alan Hodgson, the school’s Estate Manager, offers an insight into how he and his staff ensure that the all-weather pitches and playing fields are fit for purpose all year round, with his own advice and tips.

“In September 2015, we had a new synthetic grass surface installed which is used for hockey and tennis,” he said. “With many sports being played throughout the year, with their seasons taking place at different times, our maintenance of the facilities is thorough. For every 8-10 hours of play, our grounds team will brush the surface (approximately 2-3 times per week) to rejuvenate the artificial turf which improves performance and to increase the lifespan of the carpet. Typically, the corners and goalmouth areas require the most attention as this is where the bulk of the action takes place during competitive games or training sessions. 

“Due to the number of mature trees located around our playing fields, we regularly clear away the leaves with suction machinery – especially in the autumn – to not only ensure the pitches are kept tidy, but to allay any health and safety concerns.

“Occasionally we commission a specialist sub-contractor to vacuum the surface of our playing surfaces to remove any build-up of dirt and silt. This significantly increases the lifespan of the carpet. Also, the correct footwear must be worn at all times; this is relayed to the students and clearly signed next to all the facilities.”

The grounds at ACS Cobham International School

Keep track with tech

Gary Watkins, CEO of Service Works Group, says specialized software can help to streamline facilities management in schools.

School sports facilities can be a key differentiator for students and families when choosing a school,” says Gary. “Some schools offer competition-class swimming pools with height-adjustable floor and seated viewing gallery; some an all-weather Olympic track; and even a nine-hole golf course. The quality of the sports facilities can also serve as a key income generator for the school, with one school acting as an official training ground for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, while the swimming pool is rented out for parties, and a range of civic, club and corporate events are held at the site. Schools continuously look at methods to enable the business to proactively streamline services and improve efficiencies across all areas of facilities management.”

Deploying an FM software system can:

  • Create cost savings
  • Save time and improve efficiency
  • Increase financial control
  • Improve management of health and safety compliance and support   increasingly stringent regulations 
  • Increase the availability of meaningful information for better-informed decision-making

ACS International Schools has used Service Works Group’s FM software for three years, providing a central point for school staff to make enquiries, report faults, and log maintenance requests.

‘Some schools offer competition-class swimming pools with height-adjustable floor and seated viewing gallery; some an all-weather Olympic track; and even a nine-hole golf course’

The sports facilities are one of the best in any European school with football and rugby fields; softball and baseball diamonds; an international-sized basketball/volleyball show court with sprung beech flooring and seating for 280 spectators; a dance studio; a fitness suite with 17 cardiovascular machines, eight resistance machines, and free weights area; a 25-metre competition-class swimming pool with height-adjustable floor and a seated viewing gallery; an all-weather track; tennis courts; an all-weather Olympic track; and a nine-hole golf course. The Cobham campus was an official training ground for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and regularly plays host to GB Basketball and England Volleyball, while the swimming pool is rented out for parties, and a range of civic, club and corporate events are held at the site. 

The administration team for each campus, from the school secretary to the department manager, can access the helpdesk via the web, where they can quickly and easily enter the details of their required maintenance works. These jobs are processed by the facilities team, which prioritises the request and assigns the activity to the FM team on their iPads, wherever they are on site. Around 11,000 helpdesk requests logged in the first 18 months of the software’s installation revealed the scale of the FM task across the schools.

Gary continues: “Whether the facilities are managed by an in house team or external contractors, using a bespoke FM software system to log jobs and track progress of reactive repair works can enhance service quality, create service efficiencies, improve communication and give greater transparency to end-users. Easy to use comprehensive reporting also provides quality data which can inform strategic planning and support the organisation’s objectives. 

“Using a CAFM system can provide facilities managers with graphical tools to review, forecast and optimise planned activities including maintenance, health and safety schedules and warranty expiry dates. Asset reliability reports inherent in FM software will provide detailed analysis of equipment performance for effective maintenance planning and supporting repair or replacement decisions.”

Plan ahead

Sport England have a range of guidance for sports facilities, from flooding to procurement? Recently published Facility Costs 2Q16 outlines the typical costs for community sports facilities developed in accordance with Sport England’s guidelines. This information can help with planning for years ahead and making decisions based on the budget available. For example, the costs document states the cost of an indoor tennis centre with three courts as £2,350,000, while an outdoor facility with four courts, fencing and lighting can cost as little as £350,000. 

If the cost of maintaining facilities is a burden on the school’s bottom line, consider opening them up for public use. Whether it’s weekends and evenings, the summer holidays or one-off events, this can open up a revenue stream for the school as well as creating relationships with the community and demonstrating its charitable objectives. Sport England’s Use Our School programme of resources can help schools get started.



Yarm School – 

Service Works Group – 

Sport England – 


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