Community Use of Schools FAQS

Community Use of Schools Implementation of Legal Agreements

Why are written agreements needed for Community Use of Schools?

  • A written agreement is needed to record the details of the proposed use so that both parties are agreed on the arrangement. The written agreement will contain the Terms and Condition under which the arrangement is being agreed.
  • A written agreement provides protection for the School, the User and the Managing Authority. Without a written agreement in place the resolution of queries and differences between the User and the school can become challenging and time consuming to resolve.

Is a written agreement needed for all 3rd party uses of school premises?

  • A written agreement is needed to cover all arrangements where a 3rd party (“user”) is using school facilities. Schools should not enter into informal/non-written agreements for use of premises not should schools allow use of the premises pending completion of a written agreement.

What types of written agreements can be used?

For short term use of school facilities: Hire of Premises Form

  • For the majority of requests, Users will require use of a school facility or area on a temporary/short term basis. Examples include recreational/sessional bookings for sports facilities or meeting rooms in the school. The school should use the Application for Hire of Premises Form in the DE toolkit: Application for Hire of Premises Form as the written agreement for use of premises. The User returns the completed form to the school for approval. The Board of Governors will be responsible for approving applications.

For long term use of school facilities: A written legal agreement is required. There are two types of written legal agreement

  • A lease grants exclusive possession of identified space within school premises to a User for a period of time whereby the User has control and exclusive possession of that space whether inside or outside.
  • A licence to use premises is permission for a User to do something on EA premises. A licence by definition is not a lease. It is a personal right or permission. It cannot be assigned and expires automatically at the end of the licence period. A true licence does not create an estate in land. In many situations, a Licence will be highly appropriate to the governance of occupation arrangements for the EA. In many cases, the EA will be agreeing for use for a particular purpose during defined hours, and there will be a sharing of possession with the EA or its users.

Are there examples where a long term agreement is needed?

  • Yes there are currently a number of legal agreements between user groups and schools across NI schools. Examples where long term agreements are in place include:
    • Childcare
    • Surestart
    • Playgroup
    • Constituted voluntary/community and sports organisations using school premises regularly and require such an agreement to access grant funding.

How do I decide which agreement is needed?

The DE Toolkit defines Long Term as “longer than two school terms” however the school should also consider if the User requires exclusive use of an area. In some cases the User will request that a legal agreement is in place. This provides proof of tenure required for accessing some forms of grant funding.

If you are in any doubt please seek advice from EA Community and Schools Team.

Who approves agreements for use of premises?

  • For short term use the Hire of Premises Form is approved by the Board of Governors
  • For long term agreements Board of Governor approval is needed to apply for the legal agreement. Approval for the agreement is granted by the Managing Authority (in the case of Controlled Schools this is the Education Authority). Permission is also sought from the Department of Education.

What are the charges for use of school premises and facilities?

Short Term – Where the user requires short term/casual use of the school then an Application for Hire of Premises Form is completed and as set out in the DE Toolkit responsibility for setting charges rests with the school. The Toolkit confirms that in setting charges the school should not use its LMS to subsidise use which means that, as a minimum, running costs should be covered. The Education Authority has provided Charging Guidance to assist schools with setting charges for use of premises.

Long Term agreements – Where a legal agreement is needed this will be between the managing authority and the user. The charges to the user will consist of two parts:

Running Costs such as staffing utilities. As per Hire of Premises these will be identified by the school with assistance from EA.

Rental charge for premises (as per valuation by LPS)*

* Where Community and Schools Team can present a rationale that the User is (a) non-commercial and (b) providing a service that can demonstrate a benefit to the pupils and the local community this element of the rental cost may be derogated (discounted). This will only apply to agreements in schools where EA is the managing authority. Where this is not the case schools can seek advice from their managing authority.

How long does a lease or license take to put in place?

This can vary depending on the Managing Authority however for the Education Authority it can take up to 18 months to complete the various phases of the process. The Community and Schools Team will provide updates on the progress. Users should be informed at the earliest opportunity regarding the likely timescale.

Can use of the school premises be permitted by the User while the legal agreement is being prepared?

Yes – in discussion with the Managing Authority a school may enter into a temporary/interim arrangement using the Hire of Premises form pending completion of the legal agreement process. Users should be informed that the terms of the Hire of Premises are temporary and will change when the lease/license is agreed. This temporary agreement may help to establish a working relationship with the user.

What is the process for putting a long term agreement in place?

The table below provides an outline of the process for controlled schools. This will vary for other Managing Authorities.

Phase Who Action
Initiation School

When a request for Community Use is received an initial assessment is made as to what agreement is needed (see Appendix 1)

School contacts the Community and Schools Team




Complete the initial assessment pro-forma (link to Checklist Appendix II). EA Community and Schools Officer can advise school principal.

If required agree a temporary arrangement using the Hire of Premises Form
Assessment School/User Community and Schools team make recommendation to proceed with agreement
  Community and Schools Team Community and Schools meet with School and Asset Management officer to undertake due diligence on proposed agreement.
  Asset Management Service Heads of agreement (details of the agreement) drawn up
  Asset Management Service Valuation requested by Land and Property Services

Community and Schools Team

Asset Management Service

Agreement details are approved by school and User


Approval from DE and Managing Authority

  Asset Management Service EA solicitors instructed to draft agreement and issue to User Solicitor for agreement/signature
Implement and Review


Community and Schools Team

Agreement is in place and user/school operate within terms of the agreement

As end of agreement period approaches the renewal process will commence and the above process is repeated.


Where can schools get further assistance?

Community Use of Schools Minor Capital Works Projects

What is a Minor Capital Works Project?

A Minor Work is a capital project where the construction costs are less than £500k (excluding VAT) Minor capital works are prioritised according to greatest need, for example, meeting statutory compliance, roofs over heads, health and safety and disabled facilities.

The Education Authority carries out Minor Capital Works for all controlled schools and all non- controlled schools that DE commission the EA to complete minor capital works as per the DE and EA Memorandum of Agreement for Delivery of Minor Capital Works.

What is a CUOS Minor Capital Works Projects?

A CUOS Minor Capital Work Project is a capital project (as defined above) where the facilities of the school are improved in order to facilitate or increase use of the school by the community. Such projects must also have a clear benefit for the school.

What are the examples of CUOS Minor works Projects?

CUOS Minor Capital Works Projects often aim to improve sports facilities in schools with a view to increasing community use of the school.

Common examples include:

  • Installation of floodlights to allow out of hours use of pitches during winter
  • Resurfacing/Upgrading of playing areas/pitches
  • Upgrading of Gyms
  • Upgrading of changing facilities

Other examples include:

  • Refurbishment or upgrading of school halls to facilitate community events
  • Upgrading of security or access systems at the school to make community use easier to manage
  • Installation or upgrading of play equipment on school grounds

What costs need to be considered for a CUOS Minor Works

For a CUOS Minor Works

  • Professional Fees e.g. project design and surveys
  • Planning Permission Fees
  • Delivery Costs
  • Maintenance costs

How are CUOS Minor Works funded?

Funding for such projects will come from one (or a combination) of the following sources:

  • An earmarked departmental budget e.g. Your School Your Club, Neighbourhood Renewal Capital Funding
  • Council capital funding to improve (sports) facilities
  • Contribution from sports clubs or community groups
  • Private School funds (i.e. funds raised by the school which are additional (and separate to) the school LMS)

External funders will often ask for confirmation that initial approvals, design and costs are in place for the project before funding can be granted.

Confirmation that full funding is in place for the CUOS Minor Works Project will be required before EA Asset Management Service and EA Minor Capital Delivery Service can commence work on a project.

Can the Education Authority provide funding for CUOS Minor Works Projects?

The Education Authority allocates it Minor Capital Works budget according to current DE and EA Ministerial Priority for Delivery status.

Currently the Ministerial Priorities are as below:


  1. DDA/Pupil/Person Specific/Fire/Security/Health& Safety                      
  2. SEN Accommodation Projects  
  3. Essential (Ready to Tender/DPRelated/SEP Related/Priority/DE Priority
  4. All Other Applications                                                                                           

As a result of EA prioritising its budget in this way the majority of CUOS Minor Capital Works Projects will be funded from external sources

The EA will work with schools and external organisations to consider how already scheduled (prioritised) minor works (1-4 above) can be included in a partnership project where it is appropriate to do so. An example of this would be where the EA has agreed to resurface a playing surface for Health and Safety reasons however the school could source a grant to have floodlights installed (to promote community use) at the same time.

How does EA support schools with CUOS Minor Works Projects?

There are three service teams within the Education Authority that work together to provide support to schools

EA Community and Schools Team

The Community and Schools Team have a remit to deliver EA’s statutory duty.

The Community and Schools Locality Officer will be the first point of contact for schools enquiring about potential Minor Capital Works Projects.

The Locality Officer will work with the school to complete the Project Initiation Checklist (link to Appendix 2 on EA website)

Forward the Project Initiation Checklist to Asset Management Service and request that a business case be undertaken by Asset Management Service

Where appropriate establish a Project Management Team to oversee a co-ordinated approach to progressing the project.

EA Community and Schools Team Contact Details

Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon,

Mid Ulster, Fermanagh and Omagh Council areas

John Donnelly

[email protected]

Derry City and Strabane, Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid

and East Antrim, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council areas

Deirdre Hasson

[email protected]

Belfast, Ards and North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh,

Newry, Mourne and Down Council areas

Bernie Mooney

[email protected]

Lead Officer Community and Schools

Jim Dunbar

[email protected]

EA Asset Management Service

  • The EA Asset Management Service have strategic and operational oversight of all EA assets including controlled schools.
  • On receipt of a completed Project Initiation Checklist an Asset Management Project Officer will be allocated to the case in order to:
    • Review Project Initiation Checklist
    • Progress Business Case*
    • Request approvals from DE and EA Resources and People Committee if required
    • Instruct Solicitors to draft agreement arising from the project (Development agreement to deliver the project and/or Licence etc. to use the new facility)
    • Upon completion ensure asset data/information is updated on Asset Register
    • Inform EA Maintenance and EA Finance of any responsibilities under the agreement
    • Instruct LPS rating valuation of changes to Assets
    • Carry out Post Project Evaluation (Lessons learned)**
    • Manage Agreement including any lifecycle costing, usage or dispute issues between parties.

**EA will carry out the PPE where EA is majority or significant funder of the project.

EA Minor Capital Delivery Service

  • The EA Minor Capital Delivery Service has responsibility for delivering Minor Works Projects. On receipt of instructions from the Asset Management Service to proceed with the project the EA Minor Capital Delivery Service will:
    • Agree to include project onto priority annual EA MiCD delivery programme and nominate a MiCD Project Manager to progress Project
    • Prepare initial cost estimate for project (where this is needed to secure funding)
    • Apply for Planning Permission (where required)
    • Prepare the relevant delivery stage “Design and Cost Proposals” for Project
    • Procure and deliver project

Will a business case be needed?

  • A business case will be required where there is deemed to be a cost to Education Authority. Costs can be up front capital funding or ongoing maintenance commitments which will be agreed with external/ community organisations and specified in the licence agreement.
  • Even where the capital cost of the project is sourced externally the EA will need to carry out a business case review of the project if there are additional long term maintenance costs liable to the Education Authority as a result of the project.
  • Where there is no capital costs and no ongoing maintenance a business case is not required.

Is VAT Charged for CUOS Minor Works Projects

  • Controlled Schools: where EA is delivering the project in a controlled school VAT can be reclaimed on the overall cost of the project. This is because EA is the owner of the asset.
  • Non-Controlled Schools: Where EA is delivering the project in a maintained school (or a school in another sector where EA is not the Managing Authority) VAT cannot be reclaimed by EA and will need to be included in the overall cost of the project. Non controlled schools can consult with their managing authority regarding VAT charges.

Who approves CUOS Minor Works Projects?

  • The Project will be approved by the relevant EA Committee and permission for the project will be sought from DE.

What do I do if I am approached by an external organisation regarding a project or have a query?

  • It is recommended that the school should notify their managing authority in the first instance. For controlled schools this will be the EA’s Community and Schools Team.
  • The EA’s Community and Schools Team can provide initial advice to all schools.

What are the steps to getting a CUOS Minor Works Project started?

In order for the project to be accepted on to the MiCD List of approved projects for delivery (Section 7: Stage 1) the following information must be confirmed at the Pre MiCD Stage. This information includes

  • Board of Governor approval
  • Confirmation of funding (This should cover Stage 1-4 costs as a minimum)
  • Confirmation that project will not be impacted by Area Planning, planned works or other legal commitments such as wayleaves, easements or licence agreements etc. (Due Diligence)
  • Business case approval by Asset Management Service*

* AMS will prepare a business case where EA will make a financial contribution to the project. This includes ongoing maintenance commitment to the school estate as a result of the project.

The EA Community and Schools Team will work with the school to gather initial information (See appendix 2) required. The Asset Management Team, in consultation with the Community and Schools Team will then undertake a review of the project and prepare a Business Case if required.



Lead Role


Community and Schools Team hold initial meeting with school and/or external organisation regarding project

Community and Schools


School completes Project Initiation Request document. Community and Schools Team will provide support to the school however essential that completed form has Board of Governors approval

Prior to completion of the Project Initiation Request Community and Schools Team can contact Asset Management Service to begin the “Due Diligence” process. This may not require confirmation of all details of the project but should allow for early identification of major issues. E.g. Area Planning

School & Community and School Team 

Asset Management Service


Completed Project Initiation Checklist Request is forwarded to Asset Management Service to review and complete Business Case (if required) Copy forwarded to MiCD for info only

Asset Management Service


Project Approved and formal recommendation to MiCD to be added on to in year project list (Stage 1). MiCD Project Manager nominated


How long does a CUOS Minor Works Project take to deliver?

  • The timescales for Steps 1 – 4 will be dependent on the scale of the project. For smaller projects that involve no capital funding from EA and no ongoing maintenance liability these steps could be completed within 6 weeks. 
  • For larger capital projects which involve significant changes to the school facility and which will have long term financial implications the business case process can take anything up to 3 years to complete.

Where can schools get further information and assistance?

Last updated: 15/02/2024