HC Deb 14 July 1995 vol 263 cc829-30W
Mr. Duncan

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will announce the conclusions of the review of the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1981. [35179]

Mr. Robin Squire

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Employment and for Wales have concluded that the regulatory burden placed on school by the Education (School Premises) Regulations should be significantly reduced.

We therefore propose to consult on a revised set of school premises regulations which will dispense with the statutory area standards for teaching accommodation and recreation area. The change will give local education authorities and school governors more flexibility to manage school land and buildings in the interests of pupils and in the light of the facilities available.

To take account of public concern that playing fields should be preserved, however, we propose to retain minimum area standards for school playing fields. We have taken the view that these restrictions should be maintained because there may be a temptation to dispose of playing fields that schools need. That temptation does not arise in the same way in the case of teaching accommodation or recreation area.

We also intend to retain the central core of requirements in the existing regulations which are aimed at safeguarding the health, safety and welfare of pupils. In particular, we propose to retain the general health and safety requirements of the 1981 regulations and the specific requirements relating to washrooms, medical accommodation, boarding accommodation, fire safety, acoustics, lighting, heating, ventilation, water quality and drainage.

The Department will be consulting soon on a revised set of draft regulations with those in schools and local authorities who will be responsible for implementing them. Subject to the outcome of that consultation and to the approval of Parliament, we intend that a revised set of regulations reflecting the changes I have set out will enter into force from the beginning of January 1996.

To assist local education authorities and schools in interpreting and applying the regulations, my Department will continue to provide advice and guidance on the design and use of school premises.

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