Community-centred public health: taking a whole system approach


For community-centred public health, for us, the 5 most important principles are:

  • Bold leadership to adopt radical approaches to reduce health inequalities
  • Collective bravery for risk-taking action and a strong partnership approach that works across sectors and gives attention to power and building trusting relationships with communities
  • Co-production of solutions with communities, based on new conversations with people about health and place
  • Recognising the protective and risk factors at a community level that affect people’s health, and how these interact with wider determinants of health
  • Shifting mindsets and redesigning the system, aligned to building healthy, resilient, active and inclusive communities

The work of SLS, our partner schools and the thousands of amazing community hirers who use them every single day prove that local communities matter. When it comes to generating a healthy and active UK population there is no better platform than school facilities.

On 14th January Public Health England released its latest guidance and resources aimed at creating a community centred approach to health and well-being at a local level.

We’ve picked out 3 key points from the guidance that highlight, why we feel SLS and community lettings in schools as a whole, can be a fundamental part of this change and help create a happier and healthier Britain in 2020 and beyond.


Shifting mindsets and redesigning the system

Community lettings have existed for many years – long before SLS was born! However, if we can improve the access to school facilities and change the way in which they’re utilised healthier and more positive communities can be created.

It’s clear in our experience as the largest provider of community lettings in the UK that old models very often simply don’t work. For instance – if school reception desks aren’t staffed beyond 5 pm how can people who’ve been busy at work all day make bookings for their local activity? How can school-based 3G pitches be accessible for last-minute weekend sports fixtures if site staff aren’t available to work or cover Saturdays and Sundays at short notice? This isn’t meant to be a criticism of schools (how could they do this and provide a first-class education for young people) but simply a basic flaw in the traditional community-use of school models.

In 2020, new systems – both digitally when it comes to online bookings and operationally from a staffing perspective – need to be introduced to allow these true community-hub facilities to be maximised to their full potential. The pressure on schools is greater than ever before but a shift of mindset to a dedicated lettings provider is often the answer for many schools as our national portfolio of 300+ partner schools proves.


A strong partnership approach

The dual-use of schools is always a juggling act and education must come first despite the obvious health and community benefits that can be created. SLS works in full partnership with our schools so that facilities are well marketed and bookings run smoothly whilst also making sure the schools own use of them remains uninterrupted.  Ensuring schools have visibility of community bookings and creating communication pathways for school events as well is also key for the partnership to flourish.

Equally, partnerships need to be created to encourage activities that will positively impact health and well-being and SLS do just that with our national partner’s programme. Alongside local community deliverers, we also work with 200 national organisations who are leading the way in the sport, leisure and community sector to allow them access to the school facilities we open. This then creates brand new opportunities for local health activities with everything from baby swim lessons or drama and music clubs for children being introduced to the community that weren’t always available previously.


Building a shared vision

Public Health England talks in-depth about a shared vision at a local level, with key stakeholders pulling in the same strategic direction to create positive health outcomes. Just like schools, our passionate and committed UK sport and community sector share the vision for a healthier future and by using school facilities for their activities so many health and well-being benefits can be achieved.

By accessing schools hirers find superb facilities in the heart of their community, accessible for people young and old and no matter what their ability or background. Also, by paying the market rate to use them they help bring a sustainable model of community-use to the schools who often struggle when it comes to the upkeep and maintenance of their facilities in today’s difficult financial climate. Schools then essentially become ‘health hubs’ allowing local people to be part of positive activities on their doorstep.

We’d love to know what you think and hear of your experiences using schools as a community hirer – contact and follow us on social media and thanks for reading!