Through the Education Act 2002 the government has encouraged the use of school premises beyond the normal range of activities currently provided. These community based activities can be wide and varied and can include, just by way of a sample, the following activities:
- after school clubs/homework clubs
- special interest groups – chess/photography
- five-a-side clubs
- dancing groups
- community groups – weddings
- post office facilities
- virtually anyone/organisation with a genuine reason that is of benefit to others
It is clause 27 of the actual act which gives schools the power to provide such facilities:
Power of governing body to provide community facilities etc.
(1) The governing body of a maintained school shall have power to provide any facilities or services whose provision furthers any charitable purpose for the benefit of-
(a) pupils at the school or their families, or
(b) people who live or work in the locality in which the school is situated.
(2) The power under subsection (1) includes, in particular, power for a governing body to-
(a) incur expenditure,
(b) enter into arrangements or agreements with any person,
(c) co-operate with, or facilitate or co-ordinate the activities of, any person, and
(d) provide staff, goods, services and accommodation to any person.
(3) Subject to the provisions of Chapter 3 of Part 6 of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56) (charges in connection with education), a governing body may charge for any services or facilities provided under this section.
(4) This section has effect subject to section 28.
Not surprisingly, this has led to a number of education authorities seeking clarification, as to exactly how the authority’s own casualty insurance programme will respond to the new usage.
It is not possible to provide an all encompassing response as to how different insurers may respond, as there are a number of possible ways in which schools choose to deliver the additional range of services. This paper, however, does set out ways in which we may be able to assist schools in developing strategies to deal with this issue.
If schools themselves are providing the activity, as part of the operation of their school, then our standard policy would provide cover subject to standard terms and conditions, including an indemnity to the LEA, school governing body and individuals involved within the organisation.
The most problematic area is where activities are tacitly supported by the school or the PTA but are not actually organised by them. We would only deem an activity to be performed by the school (or the PTA, who we can also indemnify) if they organise and manage the activity, undertaking the necessary risk assessment including, where appropriate, ensuring police checks for those involved have been carried out. We would only need to know about any proposed activities which involved additional hazard above those which one would normally associate with a school.
It would not be our aim to insure those individuals or organisations who are independently managing and controlling such activities separately to the school. These individuals or organisations should have in place their own liability insurances.
However, the intention of the extended school programme is to make the school much more the centre of community activity. There may therefore be many additional activities/facilities which will be provided by outside bodies and may relate to community activities rather than those directly connected with the school. As explained above, in principle, these organisations should arrange their own insurances.
We do recognise however that this may not always be possible and thus we are willing to offer cover to such individuals or organisations as follows:
1. Public Liability to hirers of school premises – Hirers Liability extension to the authority’s PL coverage.
2. Employers Liability and Public Liability cover for ‘affiliated groups’ which are community based. Such groups would often take the form of ‘self-help’ groups or other small organisations who may find it difficult to obtain Employers and Public Liability insurance at a premium their limited budgets can afford.
Given the many ways in which such activities can be provided, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
Potential grey areas where the LEA maybe a little uncertain as to whether their policy applies or not can include one or more of the following situations:
- when the school is not organising the activity
- none LEA/school equipment is being utilised
- the school is not providing the supervision
When the service is provided by an outside party then the LEA need to consider the following issues:
- who is to risk manage the non authority organised activities?
- do organisers have a legal identity?
- do organisers have adequate insurance cover?
- is the usage formalised by way of an agreement?
- are police checks run on the organisers – who checks new recruits?
In summary therefore the key to assessing the insurance arrangements is for the LEA/School to decide who is organising and formally managing the service, and from here one can work through the above process to determine the most appropriate insurance arrangements.
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