Catholic Education Service thanks government for adding extra school protections to Levelling-up Bill

The Catholic Education Service has given its support to an important amendment to the government’s Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

The Bill, which is currently making its way through the Committee stage in the House of Lords, is a complex piece of legislation that has been created by the government in response to a wide range of issues affecting the running of local democracy. Areas under review  include town and country planning, community infrastructure plans, environmental and heritage concerns, compulsory land purchase and minor local bylaws.

Sponsored by Conservative peers Michael Gove and Baroness Scott of Bybrook, the Bill has passed its required three readings in the House of Commons, as well as its first two readings in the House of Lords. Once considerations and amendments have been made and accepted in the current committee stage, the Bill will get a third reading in the Lords, before moving on to Royal Assent, and into UK law.

Speaking in the Lords last night, Baroness Scott made reference to amendment Clause 467F of the new Bill, which she said: “addresses a concern of schools that occupy premises held on special trusts for the purposes of those schools.

“Local authorities have a discretionary power to provide premises for academies, but there is currently no requirement to transfer the land, as exists for maintained schools.

“Instead, the local authority tends to offer the academy trust company a lease. If trustees hold particular premises specifically for a school and the school moves to other premises, they cannot carry out the purpose of their charity if nothing else is done, as their premises end up without a school.”

This situation has been of particular concern to Catholic schools, many of which are now academy trusts and as such do not currently have the same land protection as maintained schools.

“The new clause ensures more consistent treatment across the system, where the local authority must transfer the new premises it is providing to the charitable school trustees” said Baroness Scott.

“In exchange, the trustees must pay the local authority the proceeds of sale from the existing premises—or, if the local authority agrees, the trustees can simply transfer the existing premises to it.”

Clause 467F was passed last night, which is good news for Catholic academies.

 “This amendment ensures the same legislative protections for Church academies as exist for maintained schools, and is a welcome measure to safeguard the charitable purpose of school land,” said Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service.

 “The Catholic Church is the biggest provider of secondary education and second largest provider of primary schools, with nearly 850,000 pupils.

“With thanks to the Government this legislation will help ensure the Church’s mission in education is protected as schools move toward a multi-academy trust model.”