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Gamblers Anonymous? They're meeting in the next classroom

When James Woods got bored of being a high-flying management consultant, he went back to school.

Instead of teaching, he founded a company letting out classrooms and school sports facilities.

Schools Plus started two years ago at Oaks Park high school, Ilford, London. It now includes six schools, with expansion to 15 more planned.

Many community groups and sports clubs make use of the facilities. One school hosts a weekly meeting of Gamblers Anonymous, while another offers lessons in Somali and Arabic.

Schools Plus is already turning a profit, with most schools receiving three-quarters of the profits. Private Finance Initiative-funded schools take half the profits, with a quarter going to the parent company.

Oaks Park, a PFI-funded school let for 100 sessions a month, will make more than pound;10,000 this year. Woods hopes to double that in a few years.

Steve Wilks, head of Oaks Park, said: "As a PFI school, you are a community resource and this is a way of managing that. It's a system I would encourage other schools to look at, although you have to be mindful of security and be aware that facilities need maintaining. The money we are getting at the moment is not significant, but hopefully that will increase."

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