Church schools were established in a tradition of Christian commitment to education to serve local communities or parishes.
Many of our church schools are over 150 years old and continue to remain a focus of the community.
All diocese schools currently fall into three categories: academies, maintained voluntary controlled and maintained voluntary aided schools. These have very distinct differences relating to their buildings. Land and buildings are ‘held’ by the diocese which depending on the details of the trust deed means they are either owned or overseen by the diocese.
The role of the Diocesan Education Team is to assist all schools in safeguarding their assets of both the value of the buildings and land. To this end any alterations, extensions, expansions, and changes to the building generally require the permission of the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE). We particularly assist voluntary aided schools in advising on building development and capital asset planning.
Academies: Land and buildings are held by diocese and playing fields retained by local authority (LA) on a 125-year lease.
Voluntary Controlled: Land and buildings are held by diocese and playing fields by LA. In 1944 VC schools came under the LA and therefore they are responsible for maintenance of the buildings.
Voluntary Aided: Land and buildings held by diocese and playing fields by the LA. They remain as voluntary aided and funded schools supported by their local parish and are more independently funded. This gives the school access to different capital funding streams but also liabilities and obligations. Primarily the requirement for the governing board to pay 10% on all capital funded projects including Devolved Formula Capital and School Condition Allocation (SCA). VA schools do have to pay any VAT they are charged on invoices. However, they are not VAT registered and therefore do not have access to a VAT refund scheme. The DfE advise that this is accounted for by VA schools having an increased allocation (DFC) to reflect this. It is also reflected by the arrangement with HRMC regarding VAT charged within project costs paid from SCA funding whereby an uplift is included to account for this as the VAT cannot be reclaimed.
Trustees and Diocese (GDBE) approval for repairs and alterations to school buildings
If your school or academy is planning building and refurbishment works, please be aware that trustees’ and diocese consent may be required and should be obtained in writing prior to the project commencing. The historic ongoing purpose of the Trust and GDBE is to support the running of a Church school/academy and usually the involvement of the trustees is of a light touch. However, Governors need to remember that the Trustees are the owners of their premises, and it is not just a legal requirement to obtain their consent but also a matter of respect and good manners.
Minor repairs or maintenance works to the premises do not justify the involvement of the Trustees or GDBE. Where extensions or alterations are taking place that would alter the character of the buildings due to scale, modifications or the introduction of different building materials the Trustees and GDBE should be consulted. Larger scale projects need to be brought to both group’s attention at an early stage, enabling Governors to consider the Trustees and GDBE’s views for inclusion within the design. It is not helpful to delay contact until the design is fully formulated with the expectation that agreement would automatically be given.
If Governors are unclear who acts as their Trustees the GDBE will be happy to assist. Also, the GDBE is happy to assist the Trustees in commenting on a proposed project as this responsibility may not be a regular occurrence.
The first point of contact for the GDBE (Gloucester Diocese Board of Education) in these matters is:
If you have any queries related to buildings, please contact David Williams who will be happy to assist you.
Where a school plans any alterations to buildings, permission is required from the site trustees.
In order for schools to improve and maintain their buildings there are different kinds of funding.
For voluntary controlled schools all capital funding is managed through the local authority. In academies funding is secured through CIF (Condition Improvement Fund) and SCA (School Condition Allocation). Voluntary aided schools can apply annually to the Diocese of Gloucester Education Team for a grant from the DBE annual SCA allocation (see SCA links below). For smaller projects both VA and VC schools can use their DFC (Devolved Formula Capital – see DFC link below). Academies do not have a DFC allocation but receive an equivalent amount through their annual grant. Where there has been an agreed increase in pupil numbers (above the published PAN), schools can apply to the local authority for Basic Needs Funding. Local building projects including roads and housing may also attract S106 funding. This is managed by local authorities.
DBE Health and Safety Checklist
This premises safety checklist has been designed to assist the governors and the senior leadership team (SLT) when conducting health and safety monitoring. This checklist is not exhaustive and should be modified to fit individual circumstances as required. Alternative approaches to monitoring may be taken and the school and governing body should determine the best solution given the amount of time and resource available. Such monitoring activities should be proportionate to the level of risk and therefore assurance over the effective control of significant risks such as fire; asbestos; Legionella etc. should be the priority.
Please find the link to the health and safety checklist. DBE HS checklist
DBE Premises Development Plan
This document can be used by schools to plan and programme prioritised projects over a rolling 3-5-year period. The Premises Development Plan should be shared with governing bodies on a regular basis to give early notification as to requirements for future capital work. For VA schools the PDP will need to be submitted with all SCA grant applications.
Please find the link to the Premises Development Plan. GDBE Premises Development Plan template January 2021
DBE Asset Management Plan
This document details the Diocese of Gloucester Board of Education’s (DBE) Asset Management Plan for all voluntary aided Church of England schools within the diocese. It includes the DBE’s vision for its schools and what support should be given to the governing bodies of its voluntary aided schools in their duties in looking after the school site and buildings. The document also clarifies the way the Schools Condition Grant (SCA) is allocated ensuring that it is compliant with the Department for Education’s (DfE) expectations of dioceses.
Please find the link to the AMP. GDBE AMP – January 2021
Advice for schools and responsible bodies to help manage their school buildings and land.
Please click on the link Good estate management guidance for schools
The Diocese of Gloucester is committed to supporting schools in working towards the Church of England’s target of becoming Net Carbon Zero by 2030. We are working with our partners within the Diocese of Gloucester and colleagues including Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire County Councils to support this target.
We support the campaign aimed at bringing together UK schools “Let’s Go Zero”. We would encourage schools to sign up.
Please click on the link for more information Let’s Go Zero
Maintained Church of England Schools and academies are required to uphold their trust deed. This supports the school to recognise its foundation and allows it to preserve and develop its Christian character in accordance with the Objects of the Trust. Each school has a group of trustees. These are generally either the vicar and church wardens or the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE). Where the trustees of a school site are not the DBE, the DBE takes on an overseer role to ensure the land and building is maintained. Schools who do not have a copy of their trust deed or do not know who their trustees are, should contact the education team.
Leases & Licenses
Many schools and academies host other groups, such as pre-school or wrap-around care. Sometimes the kitchens are leased to a catering company. Other organisations may wish to use the school hall. As the school is not the land-owner, it is likely that the governors or directors do not have power to grant such a lease or licence. Permission should always be sought from your site trustee if a lease or licence is to be entered into.
The school is held on charitable trusts and the trustees are subject to Charity Law. What appears to be a simple arrangement is likely to involve consulting both a land agent (to advise on the appropriate level of charge) and solicitor (to draw up the agreement). The process can be lengthy but it will identify some important points for consideration.
If schools are considering becoming an academy, please contact the education team so that we can support you particularly in areas including legal issues. This will enable us to work in partnership with (you) the school, the site trustees and the local authority. Please see the Becoming an Academy page of our website for more information.
If you have any queries related to trusts, please contact David Williams who will be happy to assist you.