Building better schools: investing in Scotland's future

The school estate strategy is relevant to all parts of the learning environment: the buildings and spaces, the grounds, the fixtures, facilities and furniture.


3D Reid Architects*
AMEY - Facilities Management*
Architecture and Design Scotland*
Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland*
Balfour Beattie - Transform Schools (North Lanarkshire) Ltd (TSL)*
Care Commission*
David Alexander (Education Consultant)
Energy Savings Trust
Educational Institute for Scotland
Fife Council (School Estate and Community Planning Partnership Teams)*
Grounds for Learning*
HMIE (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education)*
Keir Bloomer (Education Consultant)
Learning and Teaching Scotland*
Local Authority Network Group*
School Leaders Scotland*
Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People*
Scottish Arts Council
Scottish Parent Council Association*
Scottish Parents Teachers Council*
Scottish Secondary Teachers Association*
SMC Parr Architects*
The Carbon Trust*
The Lighthouse*
VOCAL (The Voice of Chief Officers of Cultural and Leisure Services)*

A stakeholder event was also held on 25 November 2008. All of the above stakeholders were invited to the event (and most attended) along with representatives from each of the 32 local authorities in Scotland.

* Stakeholders who attended one of the School Estate Strategy Working Group meetings to contribute their views to the Strategy. The other stakeholders either submitted written contributions to the Working Group and/or attended the Stakeholder Event.

Points, Suggestions and Themes which were made or highlighted during the course of stakeholder input to the deliberations of the Working Group

  • Raise awareness of sustainability and environmental issues, need to develop low-carbon, environment-friendly buildings. Ensure this is integral rather than add-on.
  • Focus on the physical learning environment - good daylight; good ventilation; avoid summertime overheating; uniform temperatures. A healthy internal environment promotes learning.
  • Focus too on the health and environmental implications of travel to school plans and patterns.
  • It can be more sustainable and cost-effective to spend less on new build and more on upgrading the condition and environment of existing schools.
  • New schools should set examples - design, detail, innovation etc. - of how all public and private buildings could be built in the future.
  • Consider highlighting 'exemplar projects' not only on completion but thereafter, highlighting transformational change to education, community use etc.
  • Better partnership between government and authorities, and sharing of good practice all round, learning the lessons from both good and bad experiences and with a real focus on supporting Curriculum for Excellence and the areas identified in the Audit Scotland Report.
  • Schools need to be environments which stimulate creativity.
  • Recognise changing roles and expectations of schools - their potential for greater contributions to community capacity building and to supporting learners' enterprise and employability skills ie their role in helping increase sustainable economic growth.
  • Importance of future proofing - maximum flexibility to 'cope and respond to' inevitable demographic changes, developments in the nature of learning and teaching, the curriculum and social education and social interaction, in technology and ICT and also in the fundamental role of schools.
  • Critical need to raise the profile of the 'poor relation' of investment planning ie general ongoing maintenance to counter deterioration etc.
  • Increased focus on design (capacity, quality, expertise and input at all the right stages) is essential, with better project briefs and specifications.
  • Raise consciousness of and expertise in specifying and designing spaces that will inspire, encourage, be flexible and impact well on school users both now and in the future.
  • Focus on increasing importance of and expertise in whole-life-cycle costings to inform and improve option appraisal and design. Need new and more cost guidance.
  • Importance of ICT infrastructure, to be integral to the overall design, and particularly key to 'including' children with additional special needs.
  • Where schools rightly provide other than education services and facilities, that needs to be an integral part of consideration and design rather than an afterthought.
  • Reinforce need for and benefits of Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) - needs to be integral part of the design, delivery, handover and downstream processes.
  • A school estate that can be responsive to changes in demand for school places needs to have the capacity for appropriate expansion and contraction.
  • Value of meaningful consultation with users, especially children, young people, teachers and the community - involving them early enough to make a difference - was stressed repeatedly.
  • Need for better much better co-ordination between school and community play/recreation/
    sports facilities - vital role here for national health and fitness agenda.
  • Schools should be 'community hubs' offering education, culture, sport etc. facilities and Buildings need to be thoroughly and well integrated into their community setting, their grounds and the surrounding landscape.
  • Too often the focus is on the buildings and not enough on the grounds and their potential, including as outdoor learning spaces, for play, recreation etc.
  • Buildings need to be thoroughly and well integrated into their community setting, their grounds and the surrounding landscape.
  • Need for a rebalancing of the weight attached to the strategic consideration of the three key 'measures' of change - condition, suitability and sufficiency (expansion and contraction of the estate). An efficient estate that is fit for purpose will not be delivered by focusing disproportionately on condition.
  • There is a constant need for good quality information about all aspects of the school estate in order to inform strategic, investment and management decisions.

'Brief' developed out of the Stakeholder event, 25 November 2008, Glasgow

"...a school is not just a school"

Drivers and Outcomes

We need whole school planning that addresses the big picture. This means joined up policies which integrate wider needs and objectives: working in partnership across agencies with multiple clients, blurring boundaries and breaking down sectoral silos. The traditional school needs to move towards an inclusive community hub campus model. One with shared services and shared working across professional silos to provide a bespoke response that matches the broader needs of communities - and of society.

Sustainability, also, is not just about energy and carbon footprints, but about community regeneration, and needs to be embedded in our broader use of community resources.
We need sustainable buildings and campuses which self teach sustainability by example.

We therefore need better and more flexible planning of the whole estate in order to take advantage of our economies of scale, and to make the best use of our shared resources, 365 days a year, for a wider positive impact - one which goes beyond the school and the local authority. So, we need a strong school estate management plan, objectively prioritised.

Has Curriculum for Excellence yet influenced the design of schools, and learning environments for those of 3-18 and beyond, in terms of flexibility and future proofing? Changes in education will need small steps towards a cultural step change - more child centred, and reflecting the many and different ways 'customers' learn, including technology and e-learning. Innovation will need to be underpinned by less fear, and more tolerance and integration in order to deliver improvements. It is 'a big ask'.

And we need clarity on the non-negotiables of a shared vision. This means clear priorities and objectives for achievable policies. Our hope is for brave decisions free of 'bandwagonism', ones which create a positive spiral of cultural change.

So is there a real vision for how education should be provided in a 21st-century school, and how should we now judge the success of the school?

Tensions and Delivery

But we need realism and clarity about capital and whole life affordability in a post growth economy with other pressures at the national and local levels. Can our aspirations still be delivered if we identify the right long term flexible funding solutions to deliver clearly defined funding objectives?

There is a lack of expectation management with an imbalance between money, strategy, and policy changes, with short-term political decisions overriding long-term planning. We need political backing, support from the legislative process, and ways of resolving the tensions between centralised vision and local decision making. We need to avoid regulatory inconsistency, or potential contradictions between current and emerging policies.

Is the long-term view relevant to what is happening now, and does it reconcile the short-term political cycle with the life of a school? We are facing demographic change coupled with questions about the whole configuration of the school year/week/day. We need a crystal ball as well as adaptable, durable, and flexible schools. Will they be dramatically different?

We are still doing catch up, and, with insufficient expertise and skilled resources to monitor school estate performance, this leads to poor future planning. It remains difficult to assess options within the local authority budget process, and to plan over the long-term demographically - particularly given the presumption against school closures.

We need clearer guidance on elective and prescriptive standards and expectations for the estate - learning lessons from how others achieve. Perhaps national guidelines would be helpful to ensure sufficient space to meet statutory obligations - addressing class sizes, templates, and building blocks - rather then defaulting too often to English examples.

We need to consult at the right stage in the planning process, with the right structures and leadership that respects others, rather than just telling them spreadsheet based decisions made in meetings by professionals. This means strong and early links into the design process.

We want schools to be inspirational for all, with creative and aspirational spaces. This means high quality learning and social environments, both old and new, both inside and outside, with rich and diverse spaces and experiences which empower and engage users, teachers, and parents.

"...somewhere you want to be"

'Brief' developed out of the pupil event on 27 February 2009, Armadale Academy, West Lothian

"We are embarrassed by our school."

Our old school is horrible and scabby and the building is in poor condition - with radiators that don't work, and colours and paint that always look dirty. We are embarrassed by our school - the classrooms, the corridors, the toilets, the changing rooms. We don't like classrooms with the blinds always down and the lights always on. As well as teachers and subjects we don't like, we don't like the rules - the dress code and the healthy eating. And some of the teachers could do a lot better with the smart boards.

What do we like in our old school? Well, we like the food and the music in the 'snacky', and the plasma TV screens, the fitness suite, and the computer rooms - and the wee garden at the 'social'.

"...we loved our primary schools"

Our primary schools had nicer buildings, and they were really clean, and colourful. The classrooms were all bigger and the teachers were nice. We liked our golden times and our circle times and free milk. We liked drama and talent shows - and getting out for playtime, and trips, and gala days. However, we didn't like Church and hymns.

"...schools should look more fun"

The views of our new school are better. It looks artistic, stylish, and attractive. It looks like it has better lighting and fresh air in the summer. You can see out to nice views and to the sky. A view cheers you up. We like trees, and going outside - though it's usually too much hassle for teachers to take pupils out.

But the new school entrance for us is out the back. And the community use will take the school away from us. We won't be allowed to use the lift, and we're worried there will be signal blockers to stop us using our mobile phones. We'd like a clean and tidy school and we'd limit the amount of pin boards and have less stuff pinned up. We want better food. We'd like places for folk to sit at break and lunch, and shelter from the rain. Size is important, and the new school has loads of space, but the classrooms are too small. We don't like rows of desks.

"We want our school to be colourful, like a decent school - to make us proud."

Selection of quotes from pupils in new or refurbished schools visited during development of Scottish Government school estate case studies.

"I love the new school as it has a lovely big hall to do PE in and because it is warm, bright, fresh and new! There is plenty of room to work and we are going to have a big, new garden."

"The new school is nice and clean, the windows look bigger - there is more space to run about in."

"My favourite part of the playground is the astroturf, my last school was all concrete and no grass."

"The school is brilliant because from the dinner hall you get a good view from the giant window. Also we have patio doors in the classrooms so we can go straight outside. We have skylights in the classrooms and a very big hall."

"I like the shape of the building there are lots of resources and nice colours in different parts of the school."

"The school is more eco friendly than other schools with the solar panels on the roof."

"The school has grass roofs, solar panels and a wormery!"

"I really like the new school the best part is the dinning hall, 'coz it has a disco ball in it for parties!"

"This school is a big improvement because we have more friends, more facilities and disabled access."

"We like the interactive whiteboards, the new classrooms and the computer suite."

"I like the toilets because they smell better and have a mirror."

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