Help, my setting will be used as a Polling Station

Help, my setting will be used as a Polling Station

May 27, 2024

In England and Wales, a returning officer gets to choose where to put a polling station for elections. Schools, particularly primary schools are a popular choice, the school can’t charge the returning officer and it will be determined by the Headteacher whether the school is to close. Day nurseries and pre-schools and Clubs are often operated out of parts of the school that have their own entrance and are away from other pupils, so these settings who are not part of the school can find that they are told that they will be closing for the day. In addition, a Headteacher can decide to close a school because it feels it cannot safeguard the children.

Where a Pre-school operates from a village hall or community centre, these are also frequently used as Polling Stations. Asking the committee of the Village Hall you intend to operate from whether the building is used in this way is a good pre-contract question.

Polling typically takes place for local elections on the first Thursday in May each year and for general elections we can expect a polling station every 5 years, now that we have 5 year terms for Government.

If you do find that your setting is told to close as it will be used as a Polling Station you have a few choices:

  1. Have an offsite day. Again with lots of notice it may be possible to have a trip or similar rather than close the setting.
  2. Close for children but not for staff. Depending on what part of your building will be affected it may be possible to close for the children but for the staff to work safely elsewhere. Whether this is feasible will very much depend on the building and your budget. Could you hire a venue for a staff training day?
  3. Close for the children and staff. Where in your contracts of employment you may be able to fix a day’s holiday or gift the staff a day off. Alternatively you may have lay off clauses in your contract and can lay off the staff giving those who are eligible a Statutory Guarantee Payment (SGP). Currently £38.

If you do close for the children you may, subject to the terms of your funding agreement with the LA be required to offer to make up the children’s hours on another occasion.

Being a polling station says that your location is a key place in the community and can be used as an opportunity to market the setting to potential parents.

If you have any questions regarding your staff and the elections, please contact us on 01527 909436.

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