Schools and communities with strong sport programs provide a focal point for community development and partnerships which have added social and economic benefits.
Of particular note is the greater capacity that partnerships provide in maximising the use of shared facilities. Community sporting organisations are under increasing pressure to provide services, but most do not have the capacity to maintain infrastructure. School facilities have been traditionally underutilised in the after school and weekend timeslots.
Greater community sport use of school facilities can produce economic efficiencies in terms of facility maintenance, repair, and upgrade, and allow these to be undertaken in a more timely and effective manner. Of interest is the example of England. In 2016 Sport England reported that approximately two thirds (62%) of school sports facilities are available for some form of community use, and 39% of sporting facilities overall are on school sites.
Use of school facilities outside of school hours presents opportunities not only for cost benefits, but also social benefits such as a decrease in vandalism and increased employment opportunities in the local community.
While official policies encourage the shared use of school facilities by other community groups, access is largely dependent on the attitude of each individual school. Many school facilities remain unused outside school hours. The Australian Government made a significant investment in school infrastructure, including sporting facilities, through Building the Education Revolution from 2010 to 2013. Reciprocal agreements provide an opportunity for community groups to access school facilities and for schools to access community open space and the expertise of community organisations.
A number of reports have highlighted the advantages of shared facility access, both for schools and community sporting organisations. Internationally, the practice of sharing school and community facilities is seen as a cost effective way to encourage greater physical activity.
Developing co-located and integrated community facilities, such as school-based sport and recreation facilities, can maximise the efficiency of access (i.e. travel networks and service provision) and thus enhance opportunities for sports participation by members of the community.