South Ayrshire Councillors at the community marketplace
The use of schools as community hubs to deliver a wide range of public services has the potential to deliver real and meaningful benefits for people and places.
That's the verdict of South Ayrshire Council and its partners following a pilot in north Ayr, which culminated in a community marketplace at Ayr Academy on Friday 23 February.
Our People, Our Place saw the Council and partners including NHS Ayrshire & Arran, South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue and the voluntary sector using Newton Primary and Ayr Academy as local community hubs where a wide range of drop-in services, as well as targeted support, were available to families and individuals.
Crucially, services were available to everyone living in the area – not just those with children in the schools.
Services provided included money and debt management advice, employability and skills information and advice, health and wellbeing support from school nurses and assistant nurse practitioners, housing options discussions, mental health support for young people through the NHS Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service, and social work support.
A number of events and activities for school pupils and their families also ran including a Homework Club at Newton Primary and a transition event for primary pupils due to move on to Ayr Academy later this year.
Our People, Our Place concluded with a busy community marketplace at Ayr Academy where all partners and services were available, alongside a free community café.
South Ayrshire Council Leader, Councillor Douglas Campbell, said: "This has been a really worthwhile pilot that has already given us lots of food for thought about how we take forward the community hub approach across South Ayrshire.
"Taking a proactive approach to making services, help and support available on people's doorsteps has allowed us to connect with people in a completely new way – many of them who may not, ordinarily, have made that contact. That's exactly what this approach is about – reaching out to those people who may not know what help is available, or how to access it.
"It's also been a terrific learning opportunity for all the partners involved and that's been one of the key outcomes of this week – getting to know more about what each of us has to offer and how we can better link in and signpost to provide a more joined-up service for people.
"My thanks to everyone who has played a part in Our People, Our Place this week – partners, schools, parents/carers, colleagues, young people and local communities. We'll be using all of their feedback to shape how we move forward and expand this approach across South Ayrshire."
People at the community marketplace also heard an update from the Council on its Balancing the Budget consultation. Councillor William Grant, Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning, said: "What this pilot has made abundantly clear is the potential that our schools offer – not just for our young people, their parents/carers and staff – but for the wider community on their doorstep.
"Our investment in schools is certainly paying dividends across South Ayrshire – making a huge difference for our young people – and that will continue in the coming years.
"Also staying the same will be the staffing levels for teachers and support staff within our schools – as you know, reductions had been proposed as one possible option to help meet our anticipated budget gap.
"Not progressing this proposal – as a result of our improved financial position as well as our consultation feedback – will go a long way to helping meet one of our core commitments, which is to tackle inequalities and disadvantage and close the attainment gap within education.
"It's clear from the budget consultation feedback that both teaching and non-teaching staff have a key role to play in ensuring the success of our young people and our schools, so this really is a positive outcome and shows the importance of public consultation and engagement.
"That's something we will be doing much more of in the coming weeks and months – making sure we make the most of our people and our places."