To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate his Department has made of the total loss of former public land to academy trusts.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the financial value of public land which academy trusts own under contracts which do not contain the right of his Department to acquire the land at no cost upon termination of the funding agreement.
When schools convert to academy status, in the vast majority of cases there is no loss of publicly funded land. Most school sites are owned by a local authority (LA). When such schools convert, the LA retains ownership of the land and leases it to the academy trust. Only where a school already owns their own land prior to conversion, and even then only in some instances, will the freehold transfer to the new academy trust. Further information on these land arrangements are available here:
Where publicly funded land is legally held by an academy trust, it remains ‘publicly funded’ and therefore protected by legislation. No one can dispose or change the use of publicly funded school land without first getting consent from my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education. Should an academy close, or part of the land become surplus, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State has powers to return it to the LA, to transfer it to another academy, or to return the proceeds of any sale to the local authority.
As a further safeguard, all academy funding agreements since at least 2014 should contain an option for my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State to acquire the academy trust’s legal interest in its land for nil consideration on the termination of the funding agreement. A version of this option was also in common use prior to 2014, but we do not have any central record of the rare instances in which it may have been absent.
The Department has not estimated the financial value of land without such an option in place. This is because even where this may be the case, all publicly funded land at academies remains subject to Schedule 1 of the Academies Act 2010. This allows the Secretary of State to direct the transfer of the land back to the local authority, or another academy trust, should the school cease to be an academy or seek to dispose of the land.