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Podcast | Season 1 | Episode 21: 'Find a Way!' – How to Generate Income

Motivated by the desire to always serve the community at the best of their possibility, Pen Green Centre is a reality based in Corby, Northamptonshire. Since their foundation in 1983, they followed the rapid change of the town and always strove to meet the needs of local working families. Listen to how the organisation found innovative solutions to generate income, which include establishing a training centre awarding nationally recognised qualifications.

📎 How to Generate Income – Real Success Stories

  • Which method of income generation is right for your institution?
  • How can you set-up a new method of income for your school?
  • Looking at a best-practice example of innovative school income generation

💡 Tracy Gallagher, Joint Head, Pen Green & Kingswood Integrated Centre

💡 Angela Prodger, Joint Head, Pen Green & Kingswood Integrated Centre

💡 Felicity Dewsbury, Research, Development and Training Base Lead, Pen Green & Kingswood Integrated Centre

🏫 This session was recorded live on 13th November 2019 in the Business & Finance Theatre of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

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Tracy Gallagher

I'm just going to start off our presentation this afternoon. I'm Tracy Gallagher, one of the joint heads at Pen Green Centre, and I'm with my colleagues, Angela, who's also one of the joint heads, and Felicity who leads our research development and training base. So we're going to give you a little bit of a context about our setting just so you know where we come from and then we're just going to share with you the different experiences and the different ideas that we've had over many, many years, to raise some income from our school and our integrated centre. And hopefully this will help you to think about possibilities that may work in your own settings. So to give you a little context, we are from Corby in Northamptonshire right in the middle of the country, the population of our town is about 68,000, but it's massively increasing. It's one of the barrier bearers that has the fastest growth in population. It's expected to increase over 17% in the next few years. So we're finding rapid change within the town, and the centre set up in 1983. And it sets up in Corby a steel town, the steel industry was established in the 1930s within the town, but in the 70s and 80s, the steel industry began to close down and we faced mass unemployment within the town. So over a third of the population were unemployed. Very, very quickly, and the centre was established at that town. And we were working with families that were facing mass poverty and lots of deprivation and it was about finding ways of working with the families that met their needs and could help us set up the centre and establish it and help it to grow. The families continue to face extreme challenges within the town. On the indices of multiple deprivation, we have 10% pockets within our communities where families are facing lots and lots of problems, lots of health difficulties, and academic achievement is still something that we're finding a real challenge and working really hard in improving. The centre is multi-layered. There's lots of complexities to our work. We are, we call ourselves an integrated centre. We are a maintained nursery school, but we also have four children's centres, so a children's centre on site and off site provision and we lead to children's centres into the primary schools within the town. We have an off site nursery, and we also offer higher education, further education and accredited courses. We have a teach in school as well and it's through the whole range of different activities within the centre, that we've been able to think of lots of different ways to income generate, so through the school in the integrated centre but also through lots of our FE and HE work. So I'm going to hand you over to Angela who's going to talk more about the work of the integrated centre. And then Felicity will tell you about lots of the income generation we've been able to do particularly through our teaching school and our research and development base.

Angela Prodger

Good afternoon. I'm going to talk to you now about how we've grown our services at Pen Green Centre. I started at Pen Green Centre as a nursery nurse student in 1983, when the centre first opened. At that point there are about 40 families using the centre. And over the years it has grown massively. So the thing for Dr Margy Whalley

who was our founder at penguin centre, she had several sayings. One was "find a way" and the other was "don't reduce services, grow services". So we have been built on the premise that we're always working with parents very closely and growing our service in response to need. So our nursery in 1983 was a 40 place nursery. Today we're 120 full time equivalent place, nursery and also selling places on top of that we've opened to early years provisions. We still have an adult education and community education, and that has grown massively over our time. We've expanded our services in the last three years to outreach now leading on three children's centres across the town and setting up a neighbourhood nursery also. You can see that we have drop in spaces we were a trailblazer for sure starts we were able to really expand and refurbish the the centre that we were in. So we have a footfall of about 1400 children and families using our service every week from from the work that we do we listen very closely to what parents want. They know what they want from the community and we need to listen to that. We always listen and try and involve parents in planning services to meet their needs, not the things that we want. Yes, we know we have to generate more income. But yes, we have to listen to what parents want to get them to come through the doors. So in response to meeting the needs of working families, we set up a year round nursery provision where a maintained nursery school but we opened as a year round provision eight or six. That's what parents wanted. Yes, it cost us more initially we had to think about staffing, but this was able to generate additional income overall. We also offer early years education with care for children and families from nine months. Again, that's what parents were asking for. They wanted to return to work, they needed a service that was going to be responsive. They didn't want to serve us when they were taking one child to an earliest provision coming to the maintain nursery school. We have to put in forbids to do this, but we hope that we're going to recoup and children will continue to come through our nursery schools and go on and use the other services that we offer. Recruiting and training volunteers has been central to our work since 1983. 54% of our staff have used the centre as parents, either bringing their children or to study. Growing your own has meant the staff had rooted in our philosophy. So we've worked really hard to work with the people in the community.

Angela Prodger

So these are a couple of examples of the service have grown from the needs of parents, not as income generation targets. However, it's generated additional income for us in all aspects of our work alongside that from 1983, because we were set up as an quite an innovative model of education, health and social care combined, we had many people asking how does that work in practice? What do you actually do? Are you co located or are you actually working collaboratively? So we set out what we call visitors days. And in the days when we had more money, people come and do that for free. We now charge and we have regular visitors days. We have local visitors days, national visitors days and international visitors days. Those days can be bespoke, or they can be the package that are on offer for us. So also parental get engaged. And often colleagues ask us for more information about what makes it work. So we've had to develop some of that training in one in particular as parents involvement in the children's learning. I've talked a lot about engaging the community. So when they were asking we we realised that we could share our unique offer about parental engagement, and we developed a training package for what, what we refer to as pickle and people can buy into that. We have just secured a contract in Midlothian to be able to offer that out to right across how many hundred and 50 settings across Midlothian. And so we started with something that we thought was a unique offer and what I would say to you today, if you're doing something in your school that you know is unique, or that works really well. It's really good to share that because people can buy in and want to take that to them. schools. We took it as just it was core and central to our work but realised that wasn't core and central to other people's work. Pen Green is a learning organisation we care passionately about parents and staff being able to access really high quality training. So each parent and staff member have a unique learning opportunity within the centre. An example of this could be a parent accesses or group work programme alongside their child, they access some learning for themselves. And they may or they may choose to become a volunteer and return to work, or parents once said to us, you come here as a parent and access the group work programme and you can leave the centre becoming a doctor because we have offered PhDs before and this is what we aspire for within our community. Through our teaching school and research base, we offer accredited courses foundation degrees, master's and BAs. More recently we've worked with an external consultant to consider our framework of opportunities as a business arm, this was a bit new to us. But he came to us. He said, you've got something here that is a goldmine. And we've looked at where we can further development, the work to maximise our income generation. I'd now like to pass you on to Felicity.

Felicity Dewsbury

So I'm still waiting for the goldmine to come to fruition. So, something is afforded us to income generate is obviously our teaching school. So in 2014, we became a teaching school, which is meant that we've been able to offer lots of short courses out to the local schools. And because of our national footing, as well, we've been able to offer those nationally. Some of the things that we've been able to support schools with because we're a multidisciplinary centre, as schools have been asking us to provide supervision and support to their staff teams, particularly for staff who are working with looked after children. That's been unique for us because of our multidisciplinary nature. And we've also grown a really healthy initial teacher training programme which is, which is supported us to generate an income. Originally we were with a university, but they prevented us from having such a lot of autonomy in terms of us creating opportunities for, for the practitioners that we wanted to create. So we've gone to a SCITT a local SCITT and that's given us much more flexibility and freedom to be able to do what we want to do. And our ITT programme has gone from only six students to actually 22 this year. So it's grown inordinately. So just something for you to think about. And because also we have a Master's programme, and our ITT students are able to do our part, the first 60 pages of our master's for their postgraduate qualification, but then obviously can be doing the full Master's programme afterwards if that's what they would like to do.

Felicity Dewsbury

Other opportunities teaching courses afforded us is an opportunity to work with other teaching schools. And together we've been able to write an attachment awareness programme, which we've shared with all of the schools in Northamptonshire. And that's been really important for us. I think it's really important as well to stress that our training has originated from practitioner research projects. And research has been born from a curiosity about our own practice. There was a time that people used to come to Pen Green to do research on us because we were quite unique, and essentially said our founder, Dr Margy Whalley, set up a research development and training base in 1997, so that we could then do our own practitioner action research. Now, she got some funding from The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to undertake our parents involved in children's learning and research. And then we've written that into different textbooks that we've sold which is just generated further income. We've written research papers which have been peer reviewed, which has generated further income. And then that's led into some training for us as well. So all of our training has originated from our own curiosity around our practice, and then getting some bids, etc, to secure that research, and then to write those papers. So this this slide just indicates the different research projects that we've undertaken over the years, and then how we've disseminated those in terms of sharing them at national conferences. We go to a conference called Esera, which is a European conference where many HE providers attend but we go as practitioners to share the research that we've completed, and then we've written the papers which again then have been peer reviewed. And then that leads to the training which is incorporated into our short courses, or undergraduate degree programmes and our master's programme. So again, is just thinking about you know, what kind of things are you curious about in your practice? What kinds of research projects could generate an income for you that you can then get right up, they could become peer reviewed. And then actually you could disseminate a write up in text, and then deliver some training that go alongside it. And then as I stated earlier, though, that practitioner action research impacts on our practice, and this slide is illustrates how our research has led to some of the changes in our practice, which ensures that we're always developing keeping our practice alive and why people are interested about coming to our centre to come and visit it. I think it also can contribute to our continuous outstanding judgement and committed to providing the best we can for children and families.

Felicity Dewsbury

So for example, we've undertaken a piece of research around consultancy observations which is a an observation technique which is originally devised by the Tavistock Institute to think about what might be going on for a child and an hour of their life. This this piece of this is had a massive impact on our business. In terms of really thinking about the children that that might be slightly challenging, I think in your environments, and we've written that up as a research paper and presented that over several years in terms of how we've developed that observational technique in our own practice and and then share that in research conferences and it's led to us actually, really embedding that technique in our in our practice, and also led to us having what we call safer practice meeting so meetings where we are a few few practitioners may be curious or just have that kind of feeling about a child or a family and about us coming together and really exploring what might be going on for the children those families. So what do we do currently, Angela's already intimated that actually the research training and development base we are completely self financing so I have to generate over a million pounds each year to keep my staff team going into contribute towards a larger organisation. So I joined Pen Green in 2006. The Master's programme had been established and been running for very many years. I've got an early years background, but I also had an adult education background and went to the founder, Dr Margy Whalley

and said to her, you know, why have you not thought about an undergraduate degree programme? And I won't say exactly verbatim what she said to me. But she, she basically said to me, if you want to have a go at it, you have a go at it, but if it messes up then on your head spear, and so I started with just 12 students, so I approached the university and then within a year, we'd set up what they call a academic support agreement. So basically, I was running their degree programme at Pen Green. We did this for a year with just 12 students. And then I am then I franchised that their degree programme. Then I wrote my own degree programme which they validated, then over a BA on top up, so a three year degree programme. And now we have about 350 degrees students. So not just at Pen Green, which is in Corby, I also have degrees students in Norfolk, I have them in Liverpool. We had a cohort in London, I had a cohort in Devon, and Bradford. So we have various cohorts all over nationally. And obviously that generates us quite a substantial income. And equally is really important because for ease is built on the principles and the philosophy of Pen Green. And for me, it supports practitioners to really think about the importance of working with children and families. And part of the reason for doing it as well is when I came to Pen Green, quite a few of our staff we were undertaking qualifications in local AG providers, and they were doing assignments on things like hand washing, which I thought was a little bit tedious and not really what they should be thinking about.

Felicity Dewsbury

The centre opened in 1993, 1983, sorry. And then the research base opened in 1997. And then as you can see, up until today, we've been recruiting and developing our HE strand in order to generate an income for us. And my vision is for us to get a degree awarding powers which be amazing, maybe the first nursery school in England to do such a thing. And so today we've had 812 practitioners that have completed postgraduate and undergraduate degree programmes with Pen Green. This doesn't include people that have undertaken just single modules or have undertaken our short courses. So this just illustrates practitioners that have completed our full degree, I know and master's degree, and I just like to share with you a little video vignette of some of our students talking about their experiences if that's okay.


It's really good in truthfully in terms of my understanding how learning goes as far as you do university to be you go there once a week and not really understand it. Whereas this, you go there for a week you understand the whole process, you go away thinking, you've got a lot more information. And it just works so much better for my style of learning. Yes, celebrate the fact that you know, the learning style and like to see us, like everyone's just so chill and calm. It's just a really nice way of when it's coming down here and doing a block half of the week, full days, then I could really immerse myself and really focus on what I was doing. Being away from home was actually a real bonus for me, means I can really concentrate on what I'm doing. I don't have to wash up and think about all the stuff at home, I can really concentrate on what I'm here to do. I don't want to leave after the reads finished. I quite enjoy this because you're in a room with all these other people that have the same mindset as you and they just share the same values as you so you can really discuss and pick through the information. And then you're left with the important bits. Yeah, it's been good because you've done it. And now at the end, and it's like, yes, it's achievable. Even in my time in life, it's achievable. So in the beginning, I was very, very nervous, but with the support, and the study weeks have been brilliant. So once the study weeks, once you finish you met your friends and you've gotten on your feet, realise he can do it. It's achievable.

Felicity Dewsbury

So just say it's really important to just finish off by saying that everything that we have done is because we really believe in what's right for children and families. So it's all of the research all of our curiosities and thinking about how we can be as good as we can possibly be to support the children and families and supporting those practitioners that you've just seen, to be the best practitioners that they can be to work with the children and families that they work with. Okay. Thank you. Thank you.