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Ken Stimpson Academy playing fields plans

In recent years, Ken Stimpson Academy in Werrington has become increasingly concerned over safeguarding risks to pupils. This is following incidents of anti-social and threatening behaviour which have taken place on the site concerned.

As a local education authority, we have a duty to ensure that we address any safeguarding concerns expressed by schools within our area. To help reduce risks to pupils and staff at Ken Stimpson Academy, we are progressing plans to install a fence around the school playing fields.

By erecting a fence, this will help ensure that students at Ken Stimpson Academy are not disadvantaged in any way and are able to enjoy an outdoor curriculum with the associated health and wellbeing benefits in a safe and secure environment.

Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 concerns disposal or change of use of school playing fields, with decisions to approve or reject requests for consent determined by the Secretary of State for Education.

Following the safeguarding concerns, and after consultation with residents about fencing the land, we applied to the Secretary of State for a Section 77 consent.

Our application was in relation to an area of land forming part of the school playing fields at Ken Stimpson Academy and known locally as 'Werrington Fields'. We sought consent to reduce the area available for the school's use by leaving a section of it unfenced, formally appropriating this as public open space.

In November 2023, the Secretary of State confirmed that they did not consent to the reduction in size of the school playing field to appropriate part of it as open space.

The rejection letter states “The department has a clear policy presumption against the loss of school land. That presumption is particularly strong in the case of land that is classed as playing field. The Secretary of State seeks normally to act in accordance with that policy but is prepared to consider departing from it where exceptional circumstances provide a good reason to justify doing so.

The benefits to the school (or other schools in the area) should outweigh the strong presumption against the loss of playing field land. In this instance, the large loss of playing field land without mitigation to counter such loss, means that the benefits to the school do not outweigh the presumption against the loss of the land, and there are no exceptional circumstances which provide a reason to depart from the policy.

As a result, the entire area of open space designated as education land remains as such.

What the rejection means

We continue to work with Ken Stimpson Academy and the Four Cs Multi Academy Trust which runs the school to understand how much space it requires to deliver the curriculum and for student welfare.

It is also worth noting that, when determining the amount of outdoor space needed by a school, the Secretary of State uses guidance called 'Building Bulletin 103'. This states that a base requirement for a secondary school delivering Key Stage 3 to 4 and Post-16 education is 9,000 square metres and there should also be an added 50 square metres per child.

Ken Stimpson Academy has 1,250 pupils, so therefore requires 71,500 square metres. Currently, the school has access to 75,730 square metres, albeit most of it is unfenced.

You can view Building Bulletin 103 on the GOV.UK website.

Planning permission

Under current national legislation, we do not require planning permission to erect a fence under two metres in height, which the fence will be.

Payment for the fence

We have agreed to meet the cost of installing the fence, part of which we have already purchased.

Community access

Under a proposed Community Use Agreement for the site, members of the public will still be able to access the land at certain times.

We are fully aware of residents' concerns regarding the loss of what they feel is a community amenity. By looking to establish a Community Use Agreement, we hope that this can serve as a compromise. It would enable the site to be used both by the school and local residents.

We will publish further details in due course.

Frequently asked questions

The council has sought independent Counsel opinion in respect of its land holdings at the school, their use and any restrictions defined within the deeds.

The Land was acquired for school use and has operated as such since it opened. Any use by the public (initially permitted by Community Use Agreement between 1984 and 1998) does not remove the land from school use.

Section 10 of The School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 specifies that schools are to have suitable outdoor space in order to enable physical education to be provided to pupils in accordance with the school curriculum; and pupils to play outside.

This legislation is supported by “Building Bulletin 103: Area Guidelines for Mainstream Schools” (BB103) which sets out the minimum area of formal and informal open space required per head of pupil (a greater area per pupil is required for Key Stage 3 and 4 schools).

Section 77 of the School Standards & Framework Act 1998 concerns disposal or change of use of school playing fields, with decisions to approve or reject requests for consent determined by the Secretary of State for Education.

The proposed release of part of the school playing field for permanent use as open space would have taken the school below the minimum standards set out in BB103. The Secretary of State could not accept the diminishment of the school playing field in the manner requested in the S77 application. Their decision means we are not able to enclose part only of the school playing field.