Voluntary Aided Schools are operated by Governing Bodies, on sites held upon church educational trusts by church site trustees, with playing field land provided by the local authority. VA schools have greater autonomy (such as admissions, employment of staff and RE) than their Voluntary Controlled and community equivalents, and in recognition of this, VA school Governing Bodies retain responsibility for capital building works (which are normally funded at 90% level through DfE grant capital schemes).
School Condition Allocation (SCA) (formerly LCVAP) system 2020-021 (letter to VA schools, February 2020) | PDF
Change from LCVAP capital grant to SCA capital grant (letter to VA schools, June 2020) | PDF
Normally, VAT will be recoverable on revenue expenditure funded by the school revenue budget, but not on capital expenditure funded by VA grant capital. The HMRC internal manual “VAT Government and Public Bodies” (Section 7500) contains detailed guidance on the treatment of VAT at VA schools. Governing Bodies are encouraged to obtain accounting advice where clarification is required.
VAT | Weblink
Third party run pre-schools and Children’s Centres
Third party run pre-schools and nurseries are often valued facilities upon or adjacent to school sites. If your school has identified a new opportunity for a pre-school to do so, please contact the Buildings Officer at an early stage to discuss the premises and land interests, and obtain the necessary consents.
Site ownership, title deeds, trust deeds and other records
School sites are normally held by church site trustees (normally the Diocese) upon church educational trusts, who allows the school Governing Body to occupy the site and operate the school in accordance with those trusts.
Before undertaking alterations to school premises, you should liaise with the Buildings Officer to establish who owns the affected land, and obtain their consent. The Diocese has access to a huge quantity of records for school sites and can help with day to day queries such as establishing the extent of the school site and responsibility for boundaries.
Health and safety
At a Voluntary Aided school, the Governing Body (as the employer) is the dutyholder for the purposes of the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974), Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) and associated legislation. DfE guidance helps to set out the statutory responsibilities as they apply to schools.
Responsibilities and duties | Weblink
Make sure that your Governing Body is aware of its statutory responsibilities and has appropriate arrangements in place to manage health & safety. Neither the Diocese or LA is responsible for health and safety in VA schools.
The Governing Body (as the employer) is the dutyholder for the purposes of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012). It has statutory duties to identify and safely manage the presence of asbestos in school buildings. DfE guidance is helpful in setting out responsibilities.
Asbestos | Weblink
Governing Bodies are strongly encouraged to obtain and follow professional advice in discharging their responsibilities (whether through a Facilities Management contractor with the relevant skills, or a specialist asbestos consultant).
As the employer and party in control of the school site, the Governing Body is the “Responsible Person” as defined within the Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005. This legislation obliges the Governing Body to appoint a competent person to complete a Fire Risk Assessment, and to review this periodically and whenever changes are made to the building and/or the way it is used.
Most VA schools will appoint a professional fire safety consultant to undertake Fire Risk Assessment on their behalf, and work with the consultant to address any recommendations that arise. It is important to appoint a consultant who understands school premises, the way that they are used and building works funded.
Academy conversion – land and buildings
Conversion to academy status requires a lot of legal work to alter the arrangements for governance and occupation of a school site. Many Church of England schools were established in the 19th century, and (even if they have since re-located to more modern buildings on new sites) it is normally necessary during the conversion process to accurately establish the history of changing land interests. This process can take time and require research at different organisations, so schools considering academy conversion are encouraged to consult with the Diocesan Director of Education at an early stage (who can refer schools to the Buildings Officer for land and buildings support).
Suffolk Learning H&S guidance for maintained schools (although SCC is not the dutyholder for VA schools, it is happy for anyone to view advice to VC & Community schools).
The DfE’s Good Estate Management for Schools guide, including useful guidance on strategy and procurement of works.
The HSE’s guidance to schools, including information about the statutory requirements of RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences) as they apply to schools
Asset management planning
A suggested template for asset management planning to assist schools with strategic premises planning.
Template | XLS
Undertaking works to the school premises
The employer/client of building works at a VA school will normally be the Governing Body. It must comply with legal responsibilities including planning law, building regulations compliance, and put arrangements in place to manage risk including health and safety, insurance, safeguarding etc.
Suffolk County Council asks all schools to apply for Landlord’s Consent before undertaking any works. Whilst in many cases the landlord of the affected part of the site will not be SCC, the Diocese strongly encourages all schools to follow the application process to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made: