The site (usually excluding the playing field), upon which a Church of England School is built, should be held in trust as given under Educational and Charity law. The details of the school trust, including the identity of the church school trustee(s) often date back to the original school and frequently the church school trustee(s) are the Incumbent and Churchwardens. However, there may be a modern Charity Commission Scheme to update the school trust. ODBE is the site trustees of new schools and a number of local trustees have passed over their responsibility to ODBE, so that ODBE is now the site trustee in approximately 30% of schools.
Former School Houses are also held on ecclesiastical/educational trust terms, usually on the same terms as the school site. However, school houses are not considered to be part of the school premises, unless they have been formally incorporated into the school. Therefore, in many cases school houses have been sold, with the sale proceeds forming a financial fund the income of which provides special benefits to the appropriate school children. Where there are school houses, they may be occupied in a variety of ways e.g. residential tenancies or commercial tenancies for which professional advice must be taken before organising these arrangements.
Church school sites are held on charitable terms. The church school trustee(s) do not have a responsibility for the maintenance of school property or operation of the school whilst a school is in existence. However, if a land transaction is proposed, e.g. lease of land to a pre-school; grant of a wayleave; sale of surplus land, then only the church school trustee(s) can grant the interest in land or a licence to occupy. The church school trustees must obtain appropriate advice to meet the requirements of the Charities Acts. Under the DBE Measure 2021, all trust matters relating to school sites must also receive prior advice of the ODBE.
Where an Academy is to be created on a church school site, the church school trustee(s) must consent to the church school site being used for an Academy. The church school trustee(s) will normally grant occupation of the school site via a Supplemental Agreement which is similar to a licence to occupy.
If a school transfers to another site or closes, then the church school trustee(s) become responsible for the land and buildings. The property will require disposal, usually by sale which requires a large input from the trustees.
Gordon Joyner - Deputy Director
email Gordon Joyner or tel: 01865 208240