Skip to content

Guidance on school use as a polling station

This guidance is based upon the DfE Schools Attendance Guidance (November 2016) and applies to schools being used as polling stations during an election or referendum.

Local returning officers have the power to require a school to act as a polling venue and may choose to do so where no suitable alternative accommodation is available. Whether or not the school then has to close is a decision for the headteacher.

Decisions about closure will usually depend on what arrangements can be made for voting to take place separately from the rest of the school premises. If pupils and the voting public can be kept apart, with a separate entrance and exit, and without compromise to the school's controlled access or interruption to education, it may be possible for the school to remain open.

If the school decides to close on the day of the poll, it should try and make up the lost education. For example, it may be possible to re-arrange the local school calendar so that the school meets for the requisite 190 days. Alternatively, a non-contact day (training or ‘INSET’ day) could be arranged on the day of the poll so that teachers work but pupils are not present, thus saving another day when the school would normally have been closed to pupils. This of course depends on enough time being available for re-arrangements to be made. If the school is prevented from meeting, and it is not reasonably practicable to arrange an alternative day, the school is treated as if it had met for the purposes of the school year regulations.

The law regulating the school day and school year applies only to schools maintained by a local authority and special schools not maintained by a local authority. This law does not apply to academies and Free Schools.

DfE advice on school attendance can be found here