Unlocking potential in the education estate

  • 12th March 2024

A new handbook has been published supporting schools and other educational establishments in navigating the development process and unlocking potential in the estate.

LocatED’s Development of School Land document aims to help schools and other state-funded education bodies navigate the complex issue of development.

It provides practical advice to individuals and organisations with responsibilities for education buildings or land when considering development opportunities and it intended to help guide the progress of development projects and deliver successful outcomes.

The document sets out four stages to the development process, explaining how to navigate site assessments, stakeholder engagement, feasibility assessments, and delivery.

Covering complex issues from legal matters and planning considerations, to site surveys and Secretary of State approvals, the document draws on the extensive expertise of LocatED’s property professionals.

LocatED chief executive, Lara Newman, explains: “In recent years, we’ve seen growing demand from education leaders for our help in unlocking potential in their school estates.

“This document provides an easy-to-use guide for schools embarking on that journey.”


Head of estates efficiency and net zero at LocatED, Will Attlee, adds: “Advice on education estates is never one-size-fits-all. Each school, multi-academy trust or local authority faces their own unique set of property challenges which can often be a significant burden.

“While schools and responsible bodies should always look for alternative funding options prior to disposing, development of this kind can free up resources.

“Our intention with this handbook is to help them navigate the development process in a way that follows best practice and achieves a successful outcome.

“If a school can generate capital receipts for reinvestment in their estate in the form of new or improved buildings, this will help deliver better learning environments for pupils.”

The English school estate, at an estimated 50,000 hectares, represents one of the country’s single-largest land holdings.

Ownership across the estate is disparate, with the Secretary of State holding less than 1% and the remaining land split between local authorities, multi academy trusts, diocesan boards of education, and other education bodies.

The disposal of publicly-funded education land requires the Secretary of State’s prior consent, or in some cases notification to the Secretary of State. This includes both playing field land and non-playing field land, such as buildings.

The new guide will help schools to navigate the approval process required and help maximise the value of land once Secretary of State approval is given.

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