To ask the Secretary of State for Education whether it is his policy that (a) academies and (b) free schools must notify (i) his Department and (ii) any other public body of the sale of school playing fields; and if he will make a statement.
No disposal of publicly funded playing field land held for the purposes of an academy or free school—whether that land is held freehold by the Academy Trust or leased to them—may take place without the consent of the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove.
The exact circumstances of that consent differ according to who holds the land and how. For maintained schools and land leased by an academy from a local authority for less than 10 years, consent is granted under Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act (SSFA) 1998. Applications made under section 77 of the SSFA are considered by the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel. For land where the Academy Trust owns the freehold (or where it is held by another charitable Trust such as a Diocese) consent is obtained under Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010. These cases do not go before the panel, but are still subject to detailed scrutiny by officials and a final decision by Ministers using the same criteria as are set out for applications made under section 77.
Sale proceeds must be used to improve sports or education facilities, and we will only agree to the sale of playing fields if the sports and curriculum needs of the academy and its neighbouring schools can continue to be met.
As part of the request for consent, those proposing disposal will need to confirm that relevant local authorities and minor authorities (such as district councils) are consulted. Any subsequent sale would also be subject to local planning procedures and consents.