Imagine buildings flooded by raw sewage. Yuck. Now imagine too that they have crumbling ceilings, faulty electrics, and leaking roofs. Manage one of these buildings, and you’ll spend many sleepless nights worrying. Unfortunately, this isn’t the start to a horror movie, this is real life for many school leaders out there.
So, is the Department for Education’s recent announcement that ‘more schools have been selected for building overhauls’ enough? We’ll let you make that call, but here are the facts…
DfE's School Rebuilding Programme
Government ministers have announced that 239 schools nationally will receive renovations in addition to the 161 which have already been given the go-ahead as part of their school rebuilding programme.
Gillian Keegan, secretary of state for education, stated that “the additional funding, alongside fantastic new facilities, will mean our brilliant teachers can get on with what they do best – and inspire the next generation.”
As part of this ten-year school rebuilding programme, these newly announced schools and sixth form colleges have been selected to receive funding to replace crumbling facilities, but critics are arguing this is merely a drop in the ocean after years of underfunding.
Why is This a Focus For DfE Right Now?
Although schools make up more than half of government buildings in terms of area, they only receive around 15% of annual running costs! Shocking, right?!
Well in fact, of all government departments, schools receive the least money for building upkeep per square metre of floor area. Hmmm, that’s a pretty damning statistic.
Shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said that schools are facing "extraordinary challenges" and parents are "right to be worried". She stated that many schools are "not fit for the future" and teachers cannot focus on education if they are "having to manage inadequate facilities".
Ms Phillipson said: "This isn't just about fixing immediate problems. It should be about making sure all of our children have a brilliant environment in which to learn because they need that if we are really going to drive up standards in all our schools and make sure that children get the best start in life."
The DfE said last year that the most urgent need is in the East and West Midlands, and that an estimated £11.4bn is needed to bring the school buildings up to scratch. That’s a huge jump from the £6.7bn in backlog maintenance for schools estimated by the National Audit Office in 2017. While not directly comparable figures, it’s clear the funding gap is growing!
What's The Reality Schools Are Currently Facing?
The truth is, for school leaders, this is pretty serious stuff. In fact, crumbling buildings and unsafe environments are proving a huge headache for many across England.
Steven Marsland, Headmaster at Russell Scott Primary in Manchester, said he has had "sleepless nights" worrying about children's safety at his school. He said he’s delighted to have his school chosen for renovation but added: "It won't make up for the last eight years."
Mr Marsland said the school had been flooded by raw sewage on several occasions after it rose through the drains, and classroom ceilings have been crumbling because of a botched rebuild. It certainly doesn’t sounds like an environment you’d want your kids being taught in, right?!
He also said: "You just worry all the time. You've got all these children who depend on you and one wrong call, and they would pay the consequences."
So, the investment announcement from the government couldn’t come soon enough.
But is it Too Little, Too Late?
Although 239 school seems like a decent number, when you put it in the context of there being over 20,0000 schools in England, it’s being criticised as simply not enough. And understandably so, when so many schools are in dire need of urgent rebuilds.
Real capital spending on the education sector is actually half what it was at its peak in 2010! Labour’s Building Schools For The Future programme was scrapped by the Conservative government in 2010, which is one reason for this dramatic drop. The current government have pledged £19.4bn of capital funding to support the education sector over the next three years, but a large part of that pot is for further education, not schools.
Reacting to the announcement, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union said: “The government’s announcement on the Schools Rebuilding Programme shows its poverty of ambition. The 239 schools included in the School Rebuilding Programme is a drop in the ocean compared with the actual number of schools which are in urgent need of rebuilds.
What Can You Do To Effectively Manage Your School Estate?
Whether you’re fortunate enough to be one of the schools selected for this additional funding or not, keeping on top of your school estate is essential. But we know it can seem a daunting task!
That’s where our simple Good Estates Management for Schools tool comes in. It allows you to easily action advice from GEMS, manage your buildings' condition and assets to prioritise problem areas, allocate appropriate budget, monitor your energy usage and much more. What’s not to love?
Using the existing data from your iAM account, the tool brings together all the useful data you need into one place, regardless of how many rooms or buildings are in your estate. Maintenance makes up just one element of managing your school’s estate because all fixtures and fittings require updates and repairs over time.
Save precious time and resources, prioritise problem areas, allocate your budget as and when required, keep on top of your sustainability and energy usage, easily check whether space is being used properly.
To learn more about how iAM Compliant could work in your school, why not book a quick demo with our team?