CARETAKING AND CLEANING
Caretaking and building supervision staff are the gatekeepers of the buildings. Their function assumes still greater importance when a school develops its work with families and communities. Some activities may take place outside normal school hours. Someone will need to assume responsibility for opening and locking up facilities. The views of caretaking staff can influence the approach taken by schools in developing the community aspect of their work. Every effort should be made to include caretaking staff in the formulation and implementation of work with families and communities.
Caretakers, governors, managers and teaching and support staff need to discuss the use and control of premises. Here are some questions they may wish to consider:
- Is the school caretaker solely responsible for locking the school at the end of a session?
- What are the caretaker's current contractual arrangements?
- Does the school have income to meet additional caretaking costs?
- What are the current cleaning arrangements in the school?
- Is the income from lettings sufficient to cover these costs?
- It is worth noting that evening, weekend and holiday use of school premises may attract a different rate of pay.
- Use of the building on such occasions may also affect when school cleaning and maintenance can be carried out. Schools will need to be flexible in the planning of routine cleaning rotas/maintenance and take activities into account when scheduling larger maintenance projects.
The principle of community use
Whilst recognising the potential problems associated with making school facilities and premises more widely available to the community, the Department of Education supports the principle that where appropriate school accommodation should be fully utilised, especially by community and voluntary groups, provided that it does not interfere with the Education & Library Board's or schools primary responsibility to promote high standards of educational achievement.
SURPLUS TO REQUIREMENTS
If a classroom or a classroom block, an area of playing field or waste ground is not required for school use, a decision may be made by the Governing Body and the ELB on whether to declare this accommodation temporarily or permanently 'surplus' to requirements and therefore available for alternative use as part of the Extended Schools programme.
A Governing Body's first responsibility will always be to ensure the needs of statutory age pupils, both now and for the foreseeable future are met. The key factor in obtaining ELB approval for declaring accommodation surplus will be the schools ability to accommodate all future forecast pupil numbers in the area. It is also necessary to ensure that the provision of any new/additional facilities does not have a detrimental effect on the school.
Who is responsible for locking up the premises and site security varies. It is not always a requirement for a caretaker or head teacher to lock and unlock the school premises. This task can, in some areas are delegated to other responsible adults (usually nominated by the head teacher and approved by governors). For more occasional use, it may be possible for the caretaker and community staff to operate rotas. If a school is intending to offer extensive out of hours activities and services, funding should be sought to employ additional staff, possibly on a part-time basis.
Additional lighting may be required if areas are used outside daylight hours. Where extra lighting is used, consideration should be given to the impact on the school's neighbours. Schools may wish to consider additional cost implications which may affect their LMS budget.
Opening up the school for family and community use, can improve site security and reduce vandalism. However when setting up new activities, school managers should carry out a review of school security, to identify any possible additional risks.
Where activities take place out of school hours, adjustments to the school's existing opening hours and visitors control systems may be needed. Security will be easier to manage if areas used for out of school hours and community activities can be separated from main school areas and locked and secured separately. In some schools, all community facilities are accessed through one entrance and reception area and have their own services such as toilets and fire exit.
CONTROL OF FACILITIES AND PREMISES
The control of school facilities and premises and the ability to deliver the Northern Ireland Curriculum is a key issue to resolve in taking forward proposals for extended school activity.
If it is anticipated that there is scope for an extended school activity to make use of 'surplus accommodation' consideration will have to be given to the following
- The impact on the school - e.g. noise, access
- Possibility of segregating the land/building to ensure the security of the school whilst providing wider community access to designated facilities out of school hours and during holidays
- Whether exclusive access is proposed to the new facilities
- Responsibility for ensuring the areas utilised for extended school activity/community use, meet relevant standards/regulations
- Health and Safety issues, including ensuring fire regulations are fully addressed
- Parking arrangements
- Ensuring accessibility issues are fully addressed
- Practical issues for sharing facilities. Is it realistic for the school and other users e.g. energy supplies, utilities etc
- Responsibilities for maintenance and decoration
- Responsibilities for cleaning/caretaking
- Responsibilities for liability e.g. injury, damage etc and associated insurance
ADAPTATIONS AND NEW BUILDS
When any building works are contemplated (whether temporary or permanent) (e.g. converting existing premises) advice should always be sought from the ELB on the planning and building implications.
If there is a proposal to provide new accommodation on a school site, e.g. provision of a mobile classroom, approval will be required from the ELB in addition to any other consent.
Consideration will always have to be given to how the cost of any building works, whether alterations or new builds will be funded and the insurance requirements of any contracts involved.
Casual lettings include 'one off' or infrequent arrangements such as community organisations use of the school for meetings several times a year or an annual art exhibition. They are covered by an agreement between the school and the individual or organisation at a rate agreed (if applicable) between the governing body and the individual or organisation.
Schools should refer to "The casual use of Buildings Document" issued by the ELB's or to CCMS guidance.
During the setting up of new activities, organisers need to ensure key fire safety procedures are followed:
- When only parts of the school are open for evening or weekend use, schools and organisers should make sure the necessary escape routes are open.
- Fire exits should be clearly signposted
- At least one of the users in each activity group needs to be aware of the fire drill and means of escape from the building
Some community groups bring their own equipment to the school. Schools need to check it will be properly used, it compatible with school equipment and electrical devices and complies with safety requirements
Where public performances take place, existing regulations and procedures should be followed. Escape routes will need emergency lighting and fire doors should be operational. Attendants may also be required in order to prevent overcrowding and keep gangways clear. They should be familiar with fire drills and escape routes.
Using the School and Developing Outreach
Schools are one of the community's most valuable physical resources. They contain spaces of various sizes that can be used for a range of activities. Schools possess halls that can be used for large meetings, and for various types of functions and physical activities. They have rooms that can be used for smaller meetings. Increasingly schools have specialist areas for ICT, the arts or media studies. Larger secondary schools will have sports halls, gymnasiums, drama and dance studios, workshops, outdoor sports facilities and multi-media resource areas.
There are sometimes access issues associated with using these areas, but they do provide potential for engaging the community and extending learning opportunities to adults as well as to pupils beyond the school day. Many schools are already used extensively outside the school day, but the challenge for extended schools is to make links between community use and enhancing the learning of pupils.
Schools need to consider how adults studying on school sites can act as role models for pupils, to show the value of learning throughout life. Members of sports and arts clubs which use the school may have skills that can be used to support pupils' learning or to act as a source of inspiration to pupils. There may be scope for joint school and community events or activities.
Adults may not always want to use school facilities. For a variety of reasons they may find schools unattractive venues for activities and may prefer other locations. Schools can continue to extend opportunities to these groups, but they may have to do this through partnership with the local community
The idea of outreach can be attractive to schools which have substantial numbers of pupils on roll but which wish to provide daytime activities. If they are unable to provide activities on site because of lack of space, they could work with a community centre or another school to provide activities.
Schools will need to undertake outreach work if they are to engage with some groups. A school could loan out facilities and equipment. It could provide support in the form of advice and expertise. It could encourage school-based staff to work with community groups. Pupils could also play a role in outreach work. Sometimes a community-based partner can form a stepping-stone to involvement in activities on the school site.