Schools: Playing Fields

Department for Education written question – answered on 27th April 2022.

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Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Berridge on 15 September 2020 (HL7666), how many school playing fields were sold in the years (1) 2020, and (2) 2021.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The number of school playing fields disposed of in 2020, either by way of sale or grant of a long lease was 21. The number of playing fields disposed of in 2021, either by way of sale or grant of a long lease was 14.

Further disposals that meet specific criteria can be made under a General Consent Order (GCO). GCOs can be used for transactions that represent no net loss of playing field land to the school estate or where the loss is temporary. Disposals made under a GCO are not published by the department and are not included in the figures above.

In instances of schools wishing to sell playing fields, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, requires applicants to demonstrate a sporting and/or playing benefit as part of any mitigation measures, and that any loss has been minimised both in quantum and quality of the land disposed of. No open school has been allowed to sell all its playing fields.

The Secretary of State for Education is keen to protect school playing fields. Schools are only able to sell or otherwise dispose of playing fields when they can demonstrate to the Secretary of State that they have explored all possible alternatives to the disposal, and that the disposal does not adversely impact upon the school’s curriculum.

The department periodically updates a playing field disposal list, accessible here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-land-decisions-about-disposals.

The next update to this will be in May 2022. The list was last updated in July 2021. The department is currently collating data for this update.

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