Case Study 11

The headteacher and governing body of Town Primary School have been approached by the Local Authority regarding using the school as a polling station for the next elections. Can the school refuse this request?

There is a provision in the Representation of the People Act 1983 which applies to Wales (Schedule 1, Part III, section 22 of the Act). This provides that returning officers (a returning officer is responsible for overseeing elections) have a right to use a room in a school maintained by the local authority (free of charge) for the purposes of contested elections, albeit that the school can charge for general expenses incurred (e.g. heating and lighting).

There does not appear to be any right for schools to refuse any such request; generally speaking, schools should stay open, but it is a matter for the head teacher whether they close (in whole or in part) if they consider this necessary from a health and safety perspective.

If the schools are to close then they could of course have an inset day on these days.

In practice, most local authorities tend to try not to use schools so as not to disrupt education provision, but this is not an absolute rule.