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The number of hours of community use of the borough’s network of advanced learning centres (ALCs) and special schools subsidised annually by Barnsley Council is to be reduced from 1,000 to 400.

The move follows a review of nine ALCs and two special schools in Barnsley which showed both the promotion and take-up of community use of these buildings was variable, and it was not always aimed at those who would benefit most from it.

Reducing the number of hours subsidised annually by the council to 400 hours for ALCs and special schools will also save approximately £170,000 annually, which will form part of efficiency savings of £17.8 million required following national austerity measures.

A report for Cabinet emphasises reducing the number of hours subsidised will still allow schools to offer community use of their premises, and if they provide more than 400 hours annually they would become responsible for meeting operational costs such as caretaking and cleaning. The subsidy arrangement allows schools to retain any income generated through community use. The reduction in council-subsidised hours will not impact on extra-curricular activities such as parents’ evenings and teaching staff working outside their core hours.

The move also aligns with a community use agreement signed by schools in Barnsley which allows for a review to examine community needs, the council’s financial position, and value for money considerations.

To mitigate against the possibility of community use of schools reducing as a result of this move, levels of use will be reviewed annually, the Cabinet report adds, and in such cases the option of using external providers to deliver community use would be explored.

Schools will be supported to develop a community use offer which aligns with the borough’s Sport and Active Lifestyle Strategy. This prioritises:

  • reducing health inequalities among different parts of the borough,
  • making the improvement of people’s health and wellbeing everybody’s business,
  • playing a strong part in keeping the borough clean, green and safe.