The legal framework of Building Ownership:

Under the School Standards and Framework Act (SSFA), Church schools fall into 3 categories — Voluntary Aided, Voluntary Controlled and Foundation. The school buildings and hard play areas in each of the 3 categories are held in trust. The trustees may be either the Vicar and Churchwardens, or the Diocesan Board of Finance or a separate charitable trust (e.g. the Lady Elizabeth Hastings Foundation). Playing fields are generally in the ownership of the LA although there are exceptions to this. In addition to the three categories mentioned above there is now a fourth – Academy. In early conversions sites were leased to the academy trust on 125 year terms while more recent conversions have instead been granted a license to operate from the site.

The trustees and the governing body are entirely separate entities with separate responsibilities. However, representation of the trustees on the governing body will normally be arranged either through the ex-officio position of the vicar or in the case of a separate trust, through a place on the board for an interested trustee.

The permission of the trustees must be sought before building works are undertaken. This also includes the installation of photovoltaic cells and solar panels. Usually the trustees are either the vicar and chruchwardens or the Diocese. If in doubt please contact the School Buildings Officer for details. In Voluntary Controlled and Foundation schools and Academies, the DBE must also be notified while for Voluntary Aided schools the approval and advice of the DBE must be sought as early as possible. Responsibilities in this respect are laid out in the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure, annexed to the SSFA.

As a rule of thumb all queries relating to school properties or land should be referred to the DBE in the first instance. Contact Simon Quartermaine on or 01904 699513.

Maintaining and improving the building:

Voluntary Controlled schools must work through the various property services departments of their LA. However, DBE officers are always happy to discuss matters and to offer appropriate support wherever possible.

For Voluntary Aided schools the funding, approval mechanisms and arrangements for building projects are, however, entirely different and there is a DBE officer with specific responsibilities for this area of work.

In brief, there are a number of funding streams available to VA schools. These include Devolved Formula Capital (DFC) allocations, which can be used to fund approved capital projects (including the purchase of IT and furniture) costing over £2,000 (exc. VAT and fees). DFC allocations are held either by the governors or in individual school accounts managed by the Diocese. For those schools which “bank” with the Diocese information on the amount of DFC held and the interest generated is sent to these schools in the form of a monthly statement. Interest generated on DFC can be used in whatever way the governors decide. Larger building projects can be supported with allocations from the Local Authority Co-ordinated VA Programme (LCVAP) - please note though that access to this funding is via a bidding system based on priorities identified in the school’s Development Plan and Asset Management Plan. It may also require an element of matched funding from DFC. Please note that all work requiring the expenditure of capital monies, whether DFC, LCVAP or any other similar programme, is liable for VAT which can not subsequently be re-claimed. The only current exception is when the work is DDA-related.

Capital funding can only be used to meet a maximum of 90% of project costs. Therefore governors will, in almost every instance, be required to meet the remaining 10% from their own funds. Interest generated on DFC can be used towards the 10%, as can any available revenue.

In order to assist schools in managing their cash flow, the DBE is able to offer a bankrolling service, which will pay invoices and claim grant on their behalf. If a school wishes to make use of this service its DFC must be held by the Diocese. A further requirement is that any consultant appointed to manage the project must be registered with the DBE.

Schools can check on the progress of projects via VASIS (Voluntary Aided Schools Information System) which is available via the DfE website. All schools should have an access password but if not we can organize one on your behalf. The DfE VA team at Darlington is also a very helpful source of advice and information and contact details are available through the DBE.

Under the Fair Funding regulations, a sum based on LA calculations will also be paid into VA school budgets for premises maintenance.

The School Buildings Officer will provide advice and support throughout each project. Please do not hesitate to ask on or 01904 699513.


In the case of Voluntary Controlled schools, the LA insures the buildings while in Voluntary Aided schools cover is arranged by the Diocese. The Diocesan scheme now provides 100% cover. There are also optional Diocesan policies providing Legal Expenses and Legal Liability cover for Governors.

Governors of each Voluntary Aided school, as the employers of the staff, are currently also advised to take out an additional premium to cover employers liability for staff who may from time to time be engaged in “non-LA related activities”. This matter is the subject of on-going discussion with DfE and the insurance companies as the definition of such activities is very ill-defined and open to interpretation. However, in the meantime and to provide peace of mind, we advise (although do not insist) Governors to take out a separate policy to cover such activities.

In all categories of school contents insurance is arranged through the LA. The only exception is when an item is deemed to belong specifically to the Governors of a Voluntary Aided school (e.g. artifacts used for worship). In such instances cover for these items can be arranged through the Diocese.

Please note that advice from the insurers (currently EIG (Ecclesiastical Insurance Group)) and the Diocese must be sought before embarking upon any claim.

Lettings and use of premises:

In a Voluntary Controlled school, lettings arrangements must follow the LA guidelines for charging in order to protect the Delegated Budget. The LA must be consulted before any lettings are agreed within school hours, but the Governing Body may agree lettings outside of school hours from Monday through Saturday. However, Sunday lettings are at the behest of the Foundation Governors of the school, but should still adhere to the charging guidelines. Many LAs now permit the lettings income to be at the disposal of the Governing Body.

In a Voluntary Aided school, it is important still to apply the LA guidelines for charging to protect the Delegated Budget, which may only be used for statutory education purposes. However, all lettings are under the control of the Governing Body (Foundation on Sundays). All income so derived is entirely at their disposal.