Government attacked again over playing fields amid postcode lottery fears

The Government has come under fire again over schools and playing fields after agreeing to relax rules on minimum outdoor space requirements for pupils.

The latest controversy raises further concerns about the legacy of the Olympics and involves rule changes on amounts of open space for each school. It follows anger triggered last week by recent cases of school playing fields being sold off.

The new regulations for schools in England, announced two weeks ago, state that "suitable" outdoor space must be provided to teach PE. Previous rules laid down set amounts such as 35,000 sq metres for schools with 600 pupils or more.

The Government said the old rules, due to be changed in October, were too specific and bureaucratic, while open spaces could include play areas and hard surfaces. Charity Fields in Trust, however, said the new rules were "woolly".

Chief executive Alison Moore-Gwyn said; "What’s 'suitable' is subjective and may lead to a postcode lottery depending on what a head teacher or education authority deems suitable.

"Following the glory of the Olympics and the government’s determination to create a sporting legacy, it is bewildering to consider new guidelines that refer to ‘appropriate arrangements’ or ‘suitable facilities’ – terms that are too open to interpretation."

A Department for Education spokeswoman countered: "By removing pages and pages of bureaucratic restrictions we will make it easier and cheaper to provide the extra school places this country needs so urgently.

"At present if an urban school wants to expand but does not have a set amount of outdoor space to meet a specific bureaucratic need it cannot take any more pupils."


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