Legal and governance

Schools need to identify the most appropriate person to take responsibility for community use at an operational level

However, it is vital that every school’s governing body or trust fully understand the risks and responsibilities relating to community use. This includes checking that the correct procedures, contracts/agreements and policies are in place to ensure community use is delivered safely and effectively.

Good practice has demonstrated it is worthwhile to identify a 'Community Use Champion' who holds a senior leadership position within your organisation. Their role is to consider how community use supports and enhances your school's core business.

Top tip

"Headteacher buy in is vital - there needs to be support and commitment from the Governors and Senior Leadership Team for community use to be a success" - Warren Smyth, Chief Executive at Abbeycroft Leisure.

Please note that Health and Safety, Safeguarding and Insurance are covered in the Operating Safely section.

Risk management

Providing community access to your school does pose some risks, but if planned for and managed, these risks on balance can far be outweighed by opportunities.

Having a risk management plan is an important part of successfully running and maintaining access to your schools facilities. It is advisable to carry out your risk management plan as early as possible with a range of different people and partners who have the knowledge of your school, community and facilities. This would include consulting your insurance provider at this early stage.

Some of the benefits of thinking about risk early and planning for it are:

  • More effective/transparent decisions
  • Effective delivery of what you do
  • High standards of accountability
  • Compliance with the law and regulations
  • Effective use & allocation of resources
  • Creativity and innovation in management

View our Risks Checklist to review potential community use risks.

Policies and Formal Agreements

There are a number of contracts, agreements and policies which will help you to formalise your community use arrangements and protect the school and the community user.

You may also be able to find out about local community management arrangements by contacting your local authority.

1) Lettings Policy – for all schools operating community use

2) Key user club agreement/Service Level Agreement – formalising a partnership with a priority Sports Club.

3) Community Use Agreement – a formal contract with another party (local authority, National Governing Body etc.) Often required for planning consent or externally funded facilities (such as lottery).

4) Transfer of Control Agreement – required if you are handing your land/facilities over for a third party to manage (such as a 5-aside Commercial Provider). Also relevant if you are changing the status of your school.

Lettings Policy

A lettings policy sets out expectations of your service and requirements of your community users. It is a very valuable document to keep everyone safe and to avoid disputes. A lettings policy will usually include:

  1. Whether there are any users who get priority usage
  2. The designated status of anyone who is running the facility
  3. Conditions of hire
  4. Administration of lettings (booking process, memberships, etc)
  5. Pricing eg scale of charges, discounts, VAT, minimum charges and deposits
  6. Cancellation protocol
  7. Payment methods
  8. Security procedures
  9. Health & Safety, Safeguarding and Insurance requirements
  10. Accessibility and Equity Policy - Accessibility is affected not just by physical layouts, barriers and difficulties but also by people’s perception of your facilities and this is based on factors like price, opening hours, activities on offer and whether they are restricted by gender, race and culture.

Sometimes schools include this information within their booking forms or a tenancy agreement. Whatever terminology you use, it doesn’t matter as long as you cover the key terms and conditions.

Here is an example of a school lettings policy from Our Lady’s RC High School.

Key User Club Agreement/Service Level Agreement (SLA)

If you are developing a long term, mutually beneficial relationship with an NGB or club it will be valuable to formalise this partnership arrangement in an agreement.

The type of information that a Key User Agreement/SLA might include:

  • Priority use – times when the club can gain access and to what facilities (including club/coaching rooms, storage of equipment, changing rooms etc.)
  • Length of the partnership - a long term agreement (such as 3 years) will provide a club with more stability. You could always suggest reviewing the arrangement after 12 months.
  • Booking fees - a club will value an affordable rate which will enable them to sustain and grow. In return for any discount in your pricing policy you can agree what services they will provide in return to the school.
  • Services and support that the club will provide you with, and vice versa. For example, the club may be able to provide professional development for your PE staff and support them in delivering the PE curriculum. In return, you may decide to offer the club free marketing to promote their club sessions on your website, and taster session for students to encourage pathways into the club’s junior clubs. 
  • Any terms and conditions which will need to be adhered to as set out in your Lettings Policy, such as child protection and Insurance requirements etc.

Here is an example of a Service Level Agreement with a club provided by Cowplain Community School.

TOP TIP: "Work with clubs that have good track records, are sustainable, NGB affiliated, accredited and have a commitment to junior development" - Loraine Gayle, Sports Centre Manager at All Saints Catholic High

Community Use Agreement

A Community Use Agreement (CUA) is a detailed document which is generally used when you have an arrangement with different parties regarding the delivery, management and/or funding of community use. It will set out how you intend to operate, including hours of availability, management arrangements, pricing policy etc.


  • If you are directly managing community use and you are an Academy or Independent school then you will be classed as the 'Landlord' in any formal contract.
  • Maintained schools will need to work with their local authority when making changes to community use as they are considered the ‘Landlord’.
  • PFI schools will generally have signed the lease of their buildings over to the PFI partner for a period of around 25 years, so this should be reflected in any formal agreement.

Creating a CUA is good practice and helps all partners understand your priorities, targets and circumstances.

Sport England is a statutory consultee on all planning applications for development affecting playing field land and there may be instances where Sport England will require a CUA to be submitted, approved and implemented in order to overcome its potential objection to a planning application.

Typically a Community Use Agreement will include:

  • Definitions and interpretations of terms, such as: casual use; community use period; marginal costs; peak use period; priority groups; school core time; aims, objectives and targets; and key performance indicators.
  • Commencement and duration of the contract
  • Option to extend
  • Transition and handover on expiry/termination
  • LA obligations
  • Obligations of governors and contractors
  • Liability and termination.

 There may be accompanying schedules which may comprise of:

  • Leisure operations
  • List of property/facilities
  • A business plan
  • A sports development plan

Here is Sport England’s standard template for a Community Use Agreement.

Transfer of control agreement

There are two situations when a transfer of control agreement may be required:

1) If as part of a new community partnership you propose to transfer control of part of your school premises to a club, group or a management company, then you will need to put in place a Transfer of Control Agreement. This is to ensure the Governors/Trustees of the school are satisfied that the party concerned has acceptable policies and procedures in place and responsibilities are clearly outlined.

2) If you are changing the status of your school (for example to an Academy), then you will need to protect any existing community use agreements you may have within your Academy Transfer of Control Agreement. It is important to note that you will also be required to honour any conditions relating to a funding agreement (for example Lottery funding for a sports facility which has community participation conditions).

Contact us if you need advice regarding a transfer of control agreement.