School Facilities: NSW
The Community Use of School Facilities resource is designed to support access to school facilities by community groups and activities.
Information about Department of Education schools in New South Wales
Schools are a community resource. Community use of school facilities provides benefits to both schools and their communities through:
- enhanced co-operation and goodwill between the school and the community;
- the provision of additional extra-curricular learning opportunities;
- better access for communities and schools to state-of-the-art facilities;
- opportunities for the community to become better informed about and participate in the school's operation and activities;
- more effective use of valuable school facilities;
- opportunities for the community to play a positive part in school security through out-of-hours use of the facilities; and
- increased revenue for schools to use on improvements to premises and school resources
Schools are encouraged to make their facilities available to community groups and organisations. (NSW Department of Education Community Use of Facilities Policy)
There are many opportunities for schools to make their facilities available to the community including:
- using school premises for community halls and meeting spaces;
- opening up school facilities for use as community recreational facilities;
- using spaces to support school aged holiday programs or Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) services;
- sharing libraries or resource centres; or
- sharing sporting facilities.
For specific information about using facilities built under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program, click here. To find out whether a primary school near you has a BER hall, click here for a list of Primary Schools for the 21st Century projects in New South Wales.
1. Community Use Agreements:
Community Use agreements are used when:
- a community wishes to use a school’s facilities on a one-off basis. Examples include a sports association hiring the hall for its annual presentation night or a theatre group hiring a hall to stage a play; or
- a community wishes to use a school’s facilities on a regular basis for a period not exceeding twelve months. An example would be a local craft group hiring a room every Tuesday night for a year. A standard Community Use agreement is used.
2. Licence / Lease Agreements:
A Licence agreement should be used when:
- the length of the community use arrangement is for a period exceeding twelve months; or
- the community use arrangement is of a commercial nature
Schools must not permit their facilities to be used for activities that interfere with student learning or which are considered by the principal to be inconsistent with the values of Public Education or the school’s purpose and goals. This includes activities that:
- infringe on the delivery of school programs;
- are likely to cause damage or risk to students, school buildings or property;
- create excessive noise or pose a nuisance to nearby residents;
- may involve the use of firearms;
- involve games of chance or gambling, unless a written authorisation or licence has been obtained from the appropriate regulatory authority; or
- are illegal
School principals may negotiate Community Use Agreements provided they do not exceed 12 months in length. All agreements over twelve months must be made as a Licence/Lease Agreement and will be prepared by the regional Asset Management Unit working with Legal Services and in consultation with the Principal and the School Education Director, if appropriate.
Community Use Agreements must not be used for:
- agreements with a term exceeding 12 months
- agreements for Children’s Services such as Out of School Hours Care (OSHC), Vacation Care, Child Care Centres, Long Day Care, Preschools
- agreements relating to establishment or renewal of Markets
- agreements with commercial operators involving Canteens, School Uniform Shops, use of playing fields, or dedicated use of buildings including demountables.
Any decision to enable the use of school facilities for commercial ventures must be supported by the School Education Director and the regional Asset Management Unit before extensive negotiations commence.
Schools should also only make facilities available for commercial purposes where there is an absence of existing private providers offering an appropriate standard of facilities within the community.
The hirer of school facilities must produce evidence of the hirer's public liability insurance which provides appropriate coverage for the hirer of at least $10 million.
The school principal may exercise discretion to hire school facilities to a hirer under a Community Use agreement notwithstanding that the hirer does not have public liability insurance, if the use is of a non-commercial nature and the school principal is satisfied that the use is of a low risk nature.
It is important that the Parents and Citizens Association has adequate insurance to ensure that it is protected against possible litigation when running an event at the school e.g. a school fete. The Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations can provide further advice on this matter.
Community partners under a Joint Use and Development Agreement, Lease or commercial arrangement must have the appropriate insurances
The Department’s Drugs in Schools Policy stipulates that alcohol must not be consumed on or brought to school premises, under any circumstances, during school hours. In the case of cross-sectoral sites (e.g. joint School/TAFE sites) a decision regarding the extent of “school premises” will need to be made in the local context.
Community groups may be permitted to consume alcohol on school premises outside school hours, provided:
- they have the appropriate licence to serve liquor from the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.
- the principal, following consultation with the executive of the school's Parents and Citizens Association, agrees to such consumption and grants prior permission in writing;
- all children present are in the company of a parent or guardian; and
- the persons granted permission to consume the alcohol agree to act in a socially responsible manner that would set an example to children.
Schools should request a security deposit from the community user. A security deposit is an up-front payment made by the community user that is non-refundable if the conditions of the agreement are not met.
The aim of the security deposit is to:
- encourage compliance with the agreement;
- discourage careless use of equipment; and
- provide funds to cover replacement or repair of damage.
As a guide, the security deposit should represent 5% of the value of the agreement. For example, a 12 month agreement worth $10,000 would incur a security deposit of $500.
The Department has a responsibility to ensure that the facilities and equipment that are being made available to the community are safe and in good condition.
Principals must ensure a risk assessment is conducted prior to agreeing to the use of a departmental site by a community user. The risk assessment process must address issues of occupational health and safety and child protection.
This process is also to be undertaken before any agreement to use a site is renewed
Where the community use arrangement is with a commercial (for-profit) organisation there are special requirements with which the school must comply. Commercial arrangements include markets held in school grounds.
In broad terms a commercial venture is one in which goods and services are sold by the community operator for profit. Conversely, a not-for-profit operation does not generate a profit, or if a surplus is made, it is directed back into the operation and not distributed to owners / shareholders. Not-for-profit organisations are run by a voluntary committee.
NSW Department of Education and Communities - Community Use of School Facilities Policy: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/administrative/facilities/comm_use/PD20090400.shtml
NSW DEC - Community Use of School Facilities Implementation Procedures (PDF): https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/administrative/facilities/comm_use/proced.pdf
Arts NSW has published a fact sheet about Community Use of School Facilities. (PDF) http://www.arts.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/COMMUNITY-USE-OF-SCHOOL-FACILITIES-FACT-SHEET.pdf