Community Use of Schools
Building stronger links between schools and communities
The schools estate if used more widely can help to meet a range of needs not only for pupils, but for their parents, families and local communities.
Community, parental and family involvement in schools is recognised for the positive impact it can have on educational outcomes for children and young people and the Department of Education is therefore committed to building stronger links between schools and the communities they serve.
Article 140 of the Education Reform (NI) Order 1989 enables schools to make provision for wider community use of their premises when not otherwise required for education purposes. The Department already promotes this through programmes such as Extended Schools, Full Service programmes and the school improvement policy - “Every School a Good School”.
Many schools already make their premises available for use by members of the community served by the school, and the arrangements are made and agreed locally.
In seeking to maximise the community use of school premises, the Department established a Working Group made up of representatives of the key educational stakeholders to explore how best to increase community access to school facilities outside of normal school hours.
The Working Group produced a Report which included a set of recommendations for consideration by both the Department and the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) aimed at enhancing community use of school premises. The Report also provides helpful case studies outlining best practice examples of schools currently making their premises available for wider community use and guidance which may be of use to school leaders in dealing with a range of associated practical issues.
Having reviewed the Report and undertaken wider consultation across Government Departments and other relevant public bodies in order to assess the recommendations made, a paper was prepared by the Department which provides comments on the Report. The DE Comments paper accompanies the release of the Working Group Report and both can be accessed via the links below. These are available in English and Irish.
The Next Steps section in the DE Comments paper outlines that further detailed practical guidance is required to assist schools enhance the use of their premises. In advance of the establishment of ESA this guidance is currently being taken forward by a Working Group lead by the Education and Library Boards (ELBs) and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) with input from the other school sectors as well as other relevant stakeholders.
Please note that the guidance contained in the Working Group Report is made available by the Department of Education for assistance only and the examples contained may not reflect the realities of an actual end user's requirements.
The intent of the guidance is to assist an individual or body in creating their own new specific document tailored to their individual legal position.
The Department does not assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information, product, process or agreement contained in the Guidance or examples.
For more information on the Extended Schools or Full Service programmes, please follow the below links:-