CASH-strapped schools in Oxfordshire are tapping into the rental potential of their classrooms to help replenish budgets.

Social enterprise School Space is helping schools to fight back against the funding crisis by utilising their school buildings a rentable venues.

The Summertown-based organisation was set up by two teenagers while they were at Wheatley Park School, who were inspired by their school’s plight during its stint in special measures.

Jemma Phibbs and James Lloyd, who are now in their 20s, have have led the project to success.

The pair and their team have helped schools to generate a combined £500,000 of profit by letting out their classrooms out-of-hours.

Miss Phibbs, who lives in Yarnton, said: “Schools only use their space 17 per cent of the time in term time, and just lie idle the rest of the time.

“We have generated £500,000 for our schools so this does really make a difference – that’s enough to provide 30 teaching assistants.”

The enterprise works by taking on the booking, marketing and operation of renting out school facilities – such as a hall or library – for a cut of the income.

Rooms might be rented out for meetings, activities, events or sport for an hourly rate.

Miss Phibbs said 14 schools in Oxfordshire had already signed up, as well as seven in London.

Those in the county are a mix of secondary and primaries, including Didcot Girls’ School, Wheatley Park, St Gregory the Great School and Wood Farm Primary School.

Feedback from Didcot Girls’, posted on the School Space website, states: “We have started to see the impact of lettings in our community engagement.

“A number of families have been impressed with the school when their children have visited us to access lettings, and the children have subsequently joined the school.”

Miss Phibbs and co-director Mr Lloyd, who lives in Bicester, had the idea for School Space while they were head girl and head boy at Wheatley Park.

The school was in Ofsted’s special measures at the time – though it has been rated ‘good’ for many years since.

Miss Phibbs said: “We were organising events at the school and thought ‘this is something that can make the school money’.

“We were passionate about the fact the school was so much better than the special measures indicated.

“It changed its reputation.”

They pitched their scheme in a competition for young entrepreneurs, called Oxford Business X, and gained financial backing to get School Space – formerly called 2JEvents – off the ground.

She said as well as making money, the scheme also has wider benefits in engaging schools with the wider community.

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