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Development of Playground and Sports Facilities in Schools

Progression is great when it all goes smoothly. It’s wonderful to see local communities, big and small, come together and develop facilities for the good of their community, present and future. Often though goodwill and good intentions can lead to gaps in understanding between various parties. With such developments, often close to six figures or indeed well over, it’s really important that all angles are considered in advance. It is much better to begin a project with your eyes wide open rather than being blindsided as the finish line comes into sight.

In recent years there has been a trend towards the installation of playground equipment and all weather facilities in schools. In a lot of cases these developments are substantially funded by various Government/Local Authority grants. A huge amount of time and effort goes into getting these projects off the ground, and Allianz are keen to aid that where possible. However in some cases, decisions have been made and plans put in place prior to our engagement and this can sometimes lead to issues.  As your school insurer we want to ensure your school isn’t taking on unnecessary exposure that really ought to be another parties responsibility. 

In this blog we outline common scenarios we encounter and various aspects your school needs to be aware of. Ultimately though our message is for you to engage with us at the earliest opportunity and we will strive to work together to make our part as smooth as possible. 

Scenario (1)

Playground & All Weather Facilities built on school owned ground and used exclusively by the school with no public access

This is quite straightforward and the main considerations required in this scenario is the equipment and design meeting certain standards. The school must also be conscious of how to best secure the facility and reduce incidents of trespass. 

A full risk assessment must be carried out to assess the exposure presented versus the assumed benefits. If it is subsequently decided to proceed, then the following precautions must be adhered to:-

• In relation to playground areas

        o All playground equipment must be installed in compliance with European Standards ISEN1176 and ISEN1177. These European Standards are accepted             by the Courts as being the model for best practice and failure to comply with them makes defending claims very difficult

        o Professional advice must be obtained with regard to the layout and design of the “playground” ensuring it is fit for purpose and can be accessed safely

• A suitable fence must be installed around the playground  or facility, fitted with a locked gate, and  must only be accessible when supervised

• Contractors must be required to produce written confirmation that they have relevant insurance in place which covers them in respect of the work being undertaken, and which includes a specific indemnity to the Board of Management and Patron

• The facility must be inspected weekly by a competent person. This inspection should include a general review of the equipment and area to ensure it is clean and well maintained. Any equipment identified as defective must be immediately taken out of use and issue rectified without delay

• An annual independent safety inspection by an appropriately qualified person or company must be undertaken

Scenario (2)

Playground Facility built on school owned ground, sometimes in conjunction with a third-party group, where grant aid is provided with the proviso that the facility is made available to the general public

A school may apply for public funding themselves, however this scenario often occurs where a community group or parents association join with the school to create the playground facility. Fundraising efforts can often lead to an expectation from the group that public use will be allowed. The school also needs to be aware that some grants include conditions that grant public access/use of the facilities. 

Schools must remember that your Allianz policy is designed to cover the school for school related activities - it is not intended to provide cover for facilities open to the general public. 

In all such cases, Allianz must be contacted prior to any agreement being signed with the funding agencies as there is no automatic cover provided in such cases. There are a number of issues that need to be considered:

• Has prior permission being obtained from the Patron

• What arrangements are in place for the supervision of the playground outside of school hours?

• Is there an agreement/lease in place with the third party designating various responsibilities?

• If the third party group or local council have agreed to extend their insurance policy to include the playground outside of school hours, obtain a copy of their insurance arrangements and forward to Allianz to ensure it is adequate

• Who is responsible for maintenance and repair and ensuring the required regular and annual inspections take place? Allianz have seen cases where a third party group or local Council have confirmed cover on the playground but still make the school responsible for the maintenance/repair of the playground, meaning they exclude any liability arising out of or in connection with defects in the equipment.

Schools need to be aware that if the facility is being made available to the general public and satisfactory insurance arrangements are not in place by the third party group or Council, then Allianz may not be in a position to extend cover. 

If we are in a position to extend cover an additional premium may will apply which will reflect the new exposure that presents. 

Scenario (3)

All Weather Facility built on school owned ground, sometimes in conjunction with a third party group and funded in part by grant aid, and intended to be used by third parties  

More and more we are seeing community groups and sports clubs join together with their local school to develop an all-weather facility. Quite often the more parties involved then the larger grant aid that can be secured. 

Firstly, it is essential that prior approval is obtained from the Patron. Furthermore, there must be a formal agreement in place between all parties, which will delineate the various responsibilities of all such as maintenance and upkeep. In some cases it may even mean that the joint venture needs to be registered as a separate legal entity with independent insurance arrangements in place.

The various parties will be expected to have their own insurance in place for their activities i.e. the school policy will cover the schools use, the GAA/Soccer/Rugby/Athletics club will have their own cover for their activities. 

We would always advise schools that where they are receiving grant aid from outside agencies, professional independent legal advice be obtained in relation to the signing of any formal agreements with these agencies and third parties to ensure your obligations are fully understood. 

Once again schools must remember that your Allianz policy is designed to cover the school for school related activities - it is not intended to provide cover for facilities open to the general public. The Department of Education & Skills published Guidelines on the use of School Buildings outside of School hours sets out the various requirements. 

If you wish to discuss any issues in particular please feel free to contact our School Support Team on 01 6133966* (Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm) or through  education@allianz.ie  . As always you can also contact your  Local Allianz Representative  to discuss. If you are insured through an insurance intermediary then please contact them directly for assistance.

*Calls may be recorded.