‘The toilet has sprung a leak’ or ‘the boiler isn’t working’ – the dreaded words of every school business professional!

‘The toilet has sprung a leak’ or ‘the boiler isn’t working’ – the dreaded words of every school business professional!

With the recent update from the Department for Education on Good Estates Management for Schools (GEMs) we thought that it would share some of our top tips from working in schools and trusts.

Understanding – knowing why good estates management is important to ensuring that you provide a safe, warm and decent environment to deliver education.

SAFE: Statutory checks & registers must be undertaken, maintained and actioned. For example; asbestos management, fire risk assessments and statutory insurance inspections. 

WARM: The minimum temperatures that must be maintained in school classrooms has been set by the Education School Premises Regulations 1999. Classrooms must reach a minimum of 18c and must be maintained while the room is in use. In areas of high activity like the gym the minimum temperature should be at 15c and in rooms with lower activity the minimum is 21c. Therefore, if the boilers or roofing fail the school might need to close due to incorrect temperature readings within the buildings.

DECENT: Ensuring that your school conforms with educational and Health & Safety standards is paramount to good estates management. Often we see funding in the budget being diverted away from estates and although the impact may not be felt immediately. If a school or trust does not ensure continual investment in the school estate to provide a good level of maintenance and to make sure all schools are fit for purpose it can lead to the increase of degradation of the estate, mechanical and electrical services which are more likely to fail on a larger scale.


Be Strategic – cutting planned maintenance out of the budget to make the budget balance for the current year does not demonstrate strategic estate management and will not support your education needs and goals. Strategic management is what you do to support these for both land and buildings. It will help you do make decisions based on evidence, use your resource efficiently and maximise the estates value.


Action Plan – Have one! A plan allows you to build a short and long term plan of how you are going to deliver maintenance, procurement and emergency planning procedures combined with assigning responsibility and governance arrangements as well as delivering within budget.


Department for Education (DfE) Top Ten List


The Department for Education (DfE) have issued a top ten list of things academy boards should be aware of and be able to evidence. 


What are the DfE 10 key questions:

  1. Are we managing the estate effectively?
  2. Who is responsible for the estate?
  3. Do we have the necessary skills, knowledge and capacity to manage the estate?
  4. How do we manage the estate?
  5. What is the condition of the buildings?
  6. Are we complying with our legal responsibilities?
  7. What do we do in emergencies?
  8. What funding is available for investment in the estate?
  9. Are we spending wisely on the estate?
  10. Can we become more efficient with our expenditure?

How to demonstrate this?


To manage and demonstrate the above can appear daunting. However, with a managed approach can be achieved and maintained in a school or trust no matter the size. 


Here are some tips;

  • Recording your aspirations – ‘a wish list’ if you will, then prioritise in order of importance. This will help you build a schedule for delivery within the business plan and budget setting period.
  • Understanding what estates data is available. Don’t reinvent the wheel if there are templates that are complaint and already work. Also identifying what you already have creates a list of what needs to be carried out and should be entered on to the risk register until completed or monitored. For example, if there is out of date or missing conditions survey or asbestos / fire risk assessment, a board and management team knows there could be a risk they are unable to manage.
  • Knowing what you ‘do not know’ is the first step to managing your risk. The Department of Educations ‘Good Estate Management’ resources are available to reference on their webpages at:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/good-estate-management-for-schools

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/good-estate-management-for-schools-tools

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