With a General Election announced for 12 December, some schools are facing disruption as their premises are used as polling stations. 

It’s actually quite difficult to accurately pinpoint the actual number of schools used as polling stations throughout the UK in previous elections and how many will be used in the upcoming election. Data from Northern Ireland is more readily available compared to England and Wales, for example.

We contacted the Electoral Commission and the Department for Education for clarification but both explained they do not hold data on the number of primary and secondary schools that are used.

There has been previous attempts at attempting to extract this data from previous Freedom of Information requests. The Electoral Commission explain that local authorities are responsible for designating which buildings are used as polling places within their area so would presumably hold this information (although it looks like you would have to contact each one individually to discover the national picture).

Schools Week have completed some really insightful investigative journalism to find out. Their analysis of the 2017 General Election reported that of the 7,894 schools in the 75 areas whose councils provided data, 1,784 were due to be used as polling stations. Of those, 189 were closed, but a lack of data on planned closures means the actual number is likely to be much higher.

The publications also reported reported that more than 60% of primary schools are estimated to have closed for the EU elections in May 2019, affecting more than 330,000 pupils.

More recent analysis by Teacher Tapp found that of 1,450 primary teachers, 116 (one in 12) said the December election would disrupt a planned activity such as a nativity play or concert. When secondaries were taken into account, 219 respondents said there would be some kind of disruption, including to end-of-year assessments.

Why are schools even used as polling stations?

Essentially schools that are publicly-funded, (maintained schools, including academies and free schools) are used as polling stations as they are:

  • free to use
  • within the control of the local authority
  • comply with public liability health and safety laws

The Returning Officer (the person who is responsible for administering the poll) is responsible for the provision of polling stations within each designated polling place and for allocating electors to each polling station.

Will teachers still be paid if the school is closed?

Generally, if you are a permanent member of staff with an employment contract you will be paid. You will want to check your employment contract or staff absence policy to see if there are any references to school closure. If you are a supply teacher on a short-term contract, there is a likelihood you might not be paid by your agency.

If you are an Edapt subscriber you can contact us for further advice and support if you haven’t been paid if your school is closed for polling.

To the Rose and Crown?

There has been criticism in the past on the impact on pupils, parents and staff that using schools as polling stations can have. Alternative venues such as football clubs, village churches, pubs and town halls are regularly used as polling stations throughout the UK. It looks like some councils are heeding concerns about school closures and are looking at reducing the amount of schools which are used as venues. With possibly more elections due in 2020 I’m sure the issue will not disappear soon.

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