Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Academies

Ministers eye ‘spot checks’ to monitor playing field sales

Government “spot checks” on deals to sell school playing fields could be introduced in a bid to tighten up its monitoring of academy trust land sales. 

The measure is being considered by officials as they weigh up how best to check if conditions set by the Department for Education for land disposals have been met. 

As part of this, they are also assessing whether to contact leaders directly to ensure they have observed the terms of their sales. 

Damian Hinds

In response to a written parliamentary question last month, schools minister Damian Hinds said: “[We are] considering measures to monitor compliance of conditions by academy trusts and other responsible bodies. 

“Measures under consideration include carrying out spot checks on cases, contacting academy trusts directly for confirmation that the conditions have been met and asking trusts to notify the department once they have been met.”

Before a deal to sell playing fields can go through, education secretary Gillian Keegan must give it the green light. Her consent will usually be subject to a condition stating that the capital receipt should be reinvested to improve sports provision at the affected school or local primaries and secondaries, Hinds said. 

15 deals for playing fields struck in 2023

The department also requires trust accounting officers to sign and return a letter confirming that they will comply with all terms of consent. Failure to do so could be a breach of the trust’s funding agreement.

Officials do not check if the terms have been met in any other way. 

The DfE stressed that the changes are being looked at “as officials consider it is good practice to monitor compliance of conditions, rather than in response to a known issue with non-compliance”. 

Prior to any new measures being implemented, the department “will need to establish the most effective practice for monitoring and recording compliance”, it added.

The new measures to monitor compliance will be in addition to the requirement to sign and return the acknowledgement letter. 

Fifteen agreements were struck last year to dispose of playing field land. In November, Lancashire County Council was given the go-ahead to sell Glenburn Sports College to make way for housing. The entire receipt will be spent on capital projects to address condition issues in other local schools. 

Analysis shows that 285 playing field sales have been signed off under the Conservatives since 2010.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Academies

The government must introduce a statutory ban on mobile phones in schools if its current crackdown on the devices proves ineffective, MPs have said....

Academies

Sir Ian Bauckham, the interim head of exams regulator Ofqual, is Gillian Keegan’s preferred candidate to take on the role full-time. But his confirmation...

Academies

The number of civil servants leaving the Department for Education has almost doubled since before the pandemic, prompting concerns about its capacity to carry...

Academies

Up to 90 per cent of schools wrestling with deficits in areas splitting £20 million “hardship funding” to help cover teacher pay rises have...