Guidance

School land and property: protection, transfer and disposal

Information and guidance about the protection of school playing fields and disposal of assets.

Overview

This guide contains information about the protection of playing fields owned by local authorities for schools and academies, and several disposal of assets issues.

It also includes information about transfer of land and property when schools change category and compulsory purchase orders.

A summary of playing field disposals that have been approved since May 2010 can be found on GOV.UK.

Disposal of school land

Local authorities wanting to dispose of school land previously needed consent under Schedule 35A to the Education Act 1996. On 1 February 2012, Schedule 35A was repealed by Schedule 14 to the Education Act 2011.

Schedule 14 also substituted a new Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010 which extends the requirement to ask for Secretary of State consent to dispose of community school land to include all land in which a freehold or leasehold interest is held by the local authority and which has been used for any school (including any academy) in the last 8 years.

Local authorities wanting to dispose of playing field land still need consent under Section 77 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998, but consent is now also required for disposal of any land used by a school or academy under Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010. Academies also need consent to any leases or disposals under their Funding Agreement.

Please contact Education Funding Agency with any applications and enquiries.

Schools and academies on land leased from the local authority also need consent to change the use of playing field land – for example to build a new teaching block on it.

Detail of the information that should be provided in respect of playing field land disposals is set out the Department for Education’s non-statutory advice about the protection of school playing fields and public land.

Applications can be requested from:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Disposal of school playing fields

Details of the procedures and legislation governing the disposal of school playing field land held by local authorities, governing bodies, foundation bodies and trustees are set out in the Department for Education’s non-statutory advice about the protection of school playing fields and public land.

This advice describes the main circumstances when relevant bodies need to seek the consent of the Secretary of State for Education to dispose, or change the use, of land used by schools, including playing field land. It also describes how the Secretary of State will assess applications for consent to dispose, or change the use, of such land. The relevant legislation is Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (as amended).

Potential applicants should remember that the Secretary of State wishes to ensure that playing fields continue to be protected. The Department for Education will usually only agree to the sale of school playing fields if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools can continue to be met. Sale proceeds must be used to improve sports or education facilities and any new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years.

The Secretary of State expects applicants to have first investigated and exhausted all other possible sources of funding before considering the sale of school playing fields.

Applications to dispose or change the use of school land

If you need an application form to dispose or change the use of playing field land under Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, or a form to dispose of school land under Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010, please contact the EFA schools assets team at schoolsassets.EFACapital@education.gsi.gov.uk or 01325 735634.

Application forms are also available for download below:

SATPF1: application seeking S77 consent to dispose of playing field land (ODT, 43.3KB)

SATPF2: application seeking S77 consent to change the use of playing fields (ODT, 37.9KB)

SCH1F: application seeking Schedule 1 consent to dispose of former school land (ODT, 27.5KB)

Disposal of school playing fields by academy trusts

Academy trusts wishing to dispose of playing field land for which they hold the freehold are required under the terms of their funding agreement, and under the new Schedule 1 of the Academies Act 2010, to seek the consent of the Secretary of State before making any disposal. They should do this through application to Education Funding Agency (EFA).

Details of the information that should be provided are in the Schedule 1 advice document, and the Department for Education’s non-statutory advice about the protection of school playing fields and public land.

Disposal of non-playing field land

The governing body, foundation body or trustees of a foundation, trust or voluntary school are also able to dispose of land and buildings they hold on trust for use by their school.

However, certain procedures need to be followed if the property was provided, acquired or enhanced at public expense.

The relevant legislation is Schedule 22 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA) (as amended by both Schedule 4 to the Education and Inspections Act 2006, and Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010 as amended by Schedule 14 to the Education Act 2011).

The governing body, foundation body or trustees are required by Schedule 22 SSFA to give notice to the Secretary of State of their intention to dispose of their freehold interest in educational land. The Secretary of State may then decide to exercise powers under Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010 to direct the transfer of any part of the land to an academy or free school. Schedule 1 allows the Secretary of State to consider whether land can be used for a free school or an academy.

Application form SCH1F: application seeking Schedule 1 consent to dispose of former school land (ODT, 27.5KB) should be completed with details of any proposed disposal and submitted to schoolsassets.EFACapital@education.gsi.gov.uk.

School playing fields and public land protection advice

Protection of school playing fields and public land is non-statutory guidance setting out the Secretary of State’s policy to protect school playing fields. It also sets out the Secretary of State’s powers to protect land for academies.

This document describes the main circumstances when local authorities, governing bodies, foundation bodies and trustees need to seek the Secretary of State consent to dispose or change the use of land used by schools, including playing field land. It also describes how the Secretary of State will assess applications for consent to dispose or change the use of such land.

The guidance does not influence or affect the procedures for applying for planning permission. Education ministers do not have any statutory powers to influence any future development of land. This is strictly a matter for the local planning authority.

The document has been produced to help recipients understand their obligations and duties in relation to:

  • the School Premises (England) Regulations 2012
  • Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998
  • Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010 (as inserted by Schedule 14 to the Education Act 2011)
  • Section 36 and Schedule 4 to the Education and Inspections Act 2006
  • general consent for the disposal of playing fields by restriction 2011

It is aimed at:

  • local authorities
  • governing bodies of maintained, voluntary and foundation schools
  • trustees
  • diocesan authorities
  • voluntary bodies
  • academies
  • sports organisations

Capital transactions: guidance for sixth-form colleges

The statutory guidance capital transactions: sixth-form colleges sets out the statutory responsibilities of sixth-form colleges (SFCs) relating to capital transactions. It also explains the relevant responsibilities of EFA.

Sixth-form colleges don’t need EFA consent to dispose of property, acquire property or borrow money if they aren’t using public funds to do so. However, sixth-form colleges do need to report all significant capital transactions to EFA.

The statutory guidance should be read in conjunction with:

The guidance also refers to:

  • the Further and Higher Education Act 1992
  • charity law

Review date

This guidance will be reviewed in 2015.

Further information

You can find forms relating to capital transactions in sixth-form colleges on GOV.UK. These forms should be used in along with the statutory guidance capital transactions: sixth-form colleges.

Closure or discontinuance of a foundation, trust or voluntary school

When a foundation, trust or voluntary school is closed and being discontinued, those persons holding land for the purposes of the school need to apply to the Secretary of State to decide what should happen to any land used by the school that has been provided, acquired or enhanced at public expense.

This legislative requirement is contained in Part II of Schedule 22 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (as amended by Schedule 4 of the Education Act 2006).

The Secretary of State’s powers enables her to:

  • require the land to be transferred to the school’s maintaining local authority
  • allow the governing body, foundation body or trustees to retain the land

or

  • require the land to be transferred to another maintained school

The Secretary of State also has the power to require the payment of compensation wherever this is considered appropriate.

Contact details

Requests for the Secretary of State to exercise various powers should be addressed to the school assets team at:

School Assets Team
Education Funding Agency
Bishopsgate House
Darlington
DL1 5QE
Telephone: 01325 340470

Section 554 orders

In certain circumstances, Section 554 of the 1996 Act enables the Secretary of State to make fresh provision for the endowments of trusts held or used for the provision of religious education in such a way that they remain for the benefit of the maintained education services.

So far as educational charitable trusts associated with voluntary, foundation or former grant-maintained schools are concerned, a failure is usually brought about by the closure of the school to which they relate. When such schools close, the trusts governing the property fail. Section 554 orders create new trusts for the property. These trusts will usually authorise the diocese to sell the property and use the proceeds of sale to benefit other church schools in the diocese.

Detailed information for dioceses about the procedures and legislation governing Section 554 orders is contained in advice for diocese: Section 554 orders.

SAT554: application for orders to be made under S554 of the Education Act 2006 (MS Word Document, 107KB) can be downloaded here.

Published 11 March 2014
Last updated 17 February 2015 + show all updates
  1. Phone number and address changed in contact details.
  2. Updated guidance and forms added
  3. First published.