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Government defends changing rules on school playing fields
Thu 16 Aug 2012
Changes to the rules on how much outdoor space should be available to school pupils in England have been defended.
The regulations now state that schools must provide "suitable outdoor space" for PE lessons and playtime.
This marks a change from the previous system, which had required schools to offer between 5,000 sq m to 54,000 sq m of outside space, depending on how many pupils they have.
According to the government, the rules on playing fields remain "extremely strict".
Indeed, it pointed out that sales of outdoor spaces have only been approved in cases where the school has merged with another, closed down or replaced them with "better facilities".
A spokesman for the Department for Education also insisted that the new rules will be far less bureaucratic than the old regulations.
Furthermore, he noted that this is the first time regulations have stated schools must have adequate outdoor space "both for formal PE lessons and for outdoor play".
The spokesman added that a consultation on how the guidelines will be implemented will commence in the next few months.
Theresa Kerr, a solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood, commented: "The changes to the rules on school playing fields are part of a wider set of reforms to the regulations on school premises and reflect the government's wider agenda of being less prescriptive and giving schools more flexibility as to how they use their premises.
"The non-statutory guidance which accompanies the regulations states that whilst the term 'suitable' is not precisely defined, schools must take into account '...the age, number and sex of pupils and any special requirements that they have...' - However, the terminology adopted by the government introduces an element of subjectivity which many commentators believe will make it easier for schools to sell off their playing fields, which is clearly a contentious issue just after the London Olympics."