Dont have an account?Sign up here
17 August 2012
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said:
"Councils do not support the selling off of school playing fields except when a school is closed or merged or in exceptional circumstances, and then applications have to meet strict agreed criteria.
"We are therefore concerned that ministers seem to be increasingly disregarding the advice of the independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel and have approved five cases recommended for refusal in the last 15 months, more than for the whole of the previous nine years.
"We are also concerned that this is likely to become more of a problem in years to come as we see more and more schools taking on academy status and becoming exempt from the guidance that applies to other schools.
"However, the sad reality is that some schools may feel selling their outside space is the only viable option open to them. Having waited several years for funding to fix their crumbling schools, some local authorities are now finding themselves having to look at all available funding options to ensure they can continue to provide enough school places that are in classrooms of a suitable standard.
"The Department for Education's refusal to provide any reassurances on the future funding needed to fix leaky roofs and mouldy classrooms is leaving schools in limbo and with councils' stretched education budgets having already suffered a 32 per cent cut there is little room for manoeuvre at a local level .
"If the Government is serious about protecting schools' ability to get more of today's young people playing sport, while also providing suitable sports facilities for future generations of children, we need a transparent and objective process around the sale and lease of playing fields that is open to public scrutiny, as is already the case at local authority level."
The independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel recommended four applications for rejection and these were subsequently approved by the Minister. One application which bypassed the Panel and was approved by the Minister would otherwise have been unanimously recommended for rejection according to the Panel's preliminary reports