The following notes will try to explain land ownership and site trusts for Church of England (CofE) Schools. From this, responsibility for maintenance and capital works as well as insurance is determined. The notes refer to “typical” arrangements, although typicality is unusual when dealing with historical land issues!
OWNERSHIP AND TRUSTS
“Typically”, the buildings of a CofE School and the land on which they stand are owned by the Diocese. The freehold owner on the Land Registry Title is “Lincoln Diocesan Trust and Board of Finance Limited” (LDTBF). LDTBF holds the property on Trust for Education in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England. Thus LDTBF (or other Site Trustee) has power to compel the governors to run the school as a CofE school.
Sometimes the area of land will include the playground, car park and even a bit more – being a simple oblong plot. In other cases, the boundary is drawn tightly round the edge of the buildings.
The playing field is then owned by the Local Authority.
Land ownership and Trusts do not change when a school converts to an academy or joins a multi academy trust. Usually, the academy will have a 125 year lease from the LEA for the playing Fields and a “Church Supplemental Agreement” (CSA) with LDTBF (or other Site Trustee) and with the Department for Education. The terms of the CSA ensure that the Site Trustees keep their power over the character of the academy.
Lincoln Diocesan Board of Education became a separate legal entity from LDTBF in 2013 and there have been no new schools since that date. Therefore LDTBF is the Trustee for the “typical” CofE school in the Diocese of Lincoln.
However, many schools were established in the mid-nineteenth century and the local incumbent was key to governing the parish school. Sometimes glebe land was given for the school. So not infrequently the Site Trustees were “the Vicar and Church Wardens of the parish and their successors”. Many of these trusts have since made LDTBF their “custodian trustee” – so that LDTBF appears on the Land Registry entry on behalf of the Vicar and Church Wardens. In these cases the responsibility for the Trust remains with the Vicar and Church Wardens.
Other schools may have been in existence for centuries before the Education Acts of Queen Victoria’s reign, having been endowed by the local landed gentry. In these cases there may be a special charity which is the Site Trustee. Such charities may also hold cash funds which can be used to support the school or for other educational purposes. The Trust in this case often does require education “in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England”.
Finally, some CofE schools are simply on rented land, where the landlord may be a charity or may be a private individual. In these cases the Trust for Church Education is really with LDTBF. If the school converts to an academy or joins a multi academy trust, there is likely to be a normal lease for the school buildings from the landowner, with a Church Supplemental Agreement in addition.
LDBE is carrying out an exercise to confirm the Site Trustees for all schools in the diocese and ensure that the Site Trustees are comfortable with their responsibilities.
If the school is extended, the new building might encroach onto Local Authority land. In this case the LA is required to transfer the extra piece across to LDTBF (or other Site Trustee). When a new school is built, such a Statutory Transfer could be of the whole site.
This does not apply to academies or multi academy trusts.
Voluntary Controlled (VC) and Voluntary Aided (VA) CofE schools are “maintained schools”. The Local Education Authority delegates the budget annually and this is where funds for maintenance come from.
CofE academies similarly have a Funding Agreement like any other academy and will pay for the upkeep of the school from that.
INSURANCE (land and buildings)
VC schools are treated no differently from other maintained schools for insurance. Employer’s liability, Public Liability etc are all included in the LEA’s school insurance policy.
The governors of VA schools are responsible for the school buildings and site (but not usually the playing fields). As with capital expenditure, the Education Funding Agency expects to pay 90% of the cost of insurance of land and buildings, and this is included in the general budget. Some LEAs simply pick up the whole bill (Lincolnshire does this) but others will leave a gap and VA schools need to arrange a separate policy (this is the case in North Lincolnshire).
There are no CofE VA schools in North East Lincolnshire.
CofE academies, like other academies, cover the insurance from their budget.
LEASES AND LICENCES
Many schools and academies are pleased to host other organisations, such as pre-school or wrap-around care. Sometimes the kitchens are leased to a catering company. Often local groups such as choirs may use the school hall. As the school (or academy) dis not the land-owner, it is likely that the governors/directors do not have power to grant such a lease or licence.
Therefore 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, which is strict and complex concerning land. 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 seem lengthy and frustrating, but it can also identify some important points for consideration.
As for leases and licences, permission is required from the Site Trustee for any alterations to buildings.
In terms of funding:
- Basic Needs funding is available via the LEA for those cases where there is not sufficient capacity in existing schools for the local population. This does not apply when a successful school is attracting children at the expense of others nearby.
- Major capital expenditure
- Voluntary Controlled Schools are dealt with by the LEA
- Voluntary Aided schools bid into the LCVAP pot (see separate notes)
- Academies apply for funding to the CIF
- Smaller capital expenditure
- Voluntary Controlled Schools receive a Devolved Formula Capital (DFC) grant each year and manage this alongside their budget
- Voluntary Aided Schools also receive DFC – see separate notes
- Academies have an equivalent capital allowance built in to their Annual Grant.