Sporting own goal?

  • Schools are under pressure to share sports facilities to maintain charity status
  • More intense use of facilities exposes schools to more risk
  • Good risk management is key to successful partnerships

Fee paying schools are eligible for charitable status if they can demonstrate that they are a benefit to the public.

One way of doing that could be by opening their elite sports facilities to students from nearby comprehensive schools, according to a Charity Commission consultation.

The suggested change comes after the Independent Schools Council criticised existing rules, claiming that they place too much emphasis on fee paying schools providing bursaries, and should instead reflect more broadly their charitable work.

Many independent schools are keen to do all they can to demonstrate their charitable status, but opening up school facilities to increased traffic does bring with it increased risks, and headteachers need to make sure that their risk management adapts to reflect this.

With staff and students from other establishments on-site who will not be familiar with the current ways of operating, it important to ensure every aspect is documented and communicated effectively. Nothing can be assumed.

Risk assessment

To begin with, Zurich Municipal advises that assurances need to be obtained to make sure that all activities that take place on site have been properly risk assessed and will be supervised by appropriately-trained staff.

The correct sports equipment and safety equipment needs to be provided – claims have occurred in the past from injuries that have occurred when items such as cricket pads have not been made available to everyone taking part.

All pitches, halls and changing rooms need to be regularly inspected by trained staff, and any issues flagged-up and dealt with swiftly – everyone needs to understand that breakages and spillages cannot be left.

When co-ordinating timetables between establishments, it is important to make sure that areas such as halls are not being used for non-sport activities, such as lunches or drama lessons, when a games session is taking place.

If these activities have taken place prior to a games lesson, then a proper inspection needs to be carried out to clear up any mess before any sport begins.

Where heavy kit needs to be moved before a session begins – such as gym equipment – there needs to be a proper manual handling risk assessment to establish appropriate procedure.

If weights and conditioning facilities are being shared, it is essential that visitors are properly trained and appropriate age limits are observed to minimise the risk of injury.

All risk assessment needs to be discussed with your insurer, who will be available to offer additional advice where appropriate, and be able to discuss whether or not your insurance needs to change to reflect greater use of facilities.

With the right risk assessment, the right staff – and the right insurance cover – there is no reason why fee paying schools should score an own goal by sharing their sporting facilities with the community.