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.






"The Scottish Government ( SG) and councils should review the School Estate Strategy and set specific, measurable and meaningful targets to ensure that the aims of the strategy are clearly expressed and progress can be properly assessed."

  • The Scottish Government ( SG) and COSLA have reviewed and prepared a Strategy which includes an initial target in relation to school condition.
  • Further targets will be developed as the data and information base improves.
  • Refer to guiding principle 4.

"The strategy should contain an implementation plan, which sets out what has to be done, when and by whom."

  • Under the terms of the Concordat between SG and COSLA, local authorities are responsible for managing their own priorities according to local circumstances, and address the joint commitments set out within the Concordat.
  • Following publication of the Strategy, SG, COSLA and authorities will continue to work in partnership to develop a Financial Strategy (see Part 4 below) and an Implementation Plan.

"The Scottish Government and councils should report progress using information collected at an agreed time and to an agreed standard."

  • The SG already collects Core Facts from councils on an agreed basis, and publishes the information annually as the School Estate Statistics.
  • SG also receives School Estate Management Plans ( SEMPs) or updates from councils on an annual basis.
  • SG and authorities will continue to work together to further improve the robustness and fitness for purpose of the Core Facts.
  • SEMPs will be reviewed in light of the School Estate Strategy.
  • Refer to guiding principles 4, 5, 7.


"The Scottish Government and councils should implement standardised approaches for collecting reliable information about condition and suitability on school buildings."

  • The SG and councils have already completed work on a standardised approach for collecting reliable information about 'condition'.
  • Work has been undertaken on a measure of 'suitability' and guidance issued in October 2008. Authorities are currently piloting the new measure. The first national collection of suitability data will likely take place in 2010.
  • Use of both the condition and suitability guidance will be kept under review and developed further as necessary.
  • Refer to guiding principles 4, 5.

"The Scottish Government and Councils should agree to report progress in terms of new, clearly defined targets reflecting key standards for condition, suitability and sufficiency."

  • The School Estate Core Facts are collected every year and published as the School Estate Statistics. They demonstrate progress in relation to the condition of the school estate.
  • The School Estate Statistics will be developed further to report progress in respect of the new target relating to condition.
  • Refer to guiding principles 4, 5, 7.


"The Scottish Government should identify a financial strategy for achieving the aims of the School Estate Strategy. The amount of financial investment required should be estimated now and kept under review as information improves and progress towards targets continues. The financial strategy should allow for the long lead-in time required for major school-building projects."

  • The SG and COSLA have accepted all the recommendations of the Report, and will use as their starting point the Audit Scotland working assumption that this will take at least another £5 billion of investment.
  • A Financial Strategy will be jointly developed by SG and COSLA following publication of this Strategy.
  • The Financial Strategy will reflect the vision, aspirations and principles set out in this Strategy.

"Councils should develop plans for the duration of their PFI contracts that identify how they will pay the increasing charges for their PFI contracts."

  • As a part of the approvals process for PFI contracts, local authorities are required to demonstrate that they have considered affordability throughout the life of the contract, including any impact which indexation may have on the year on year unitary charge. The appropriate level of indexation is a commercial matter for local negotiation.
  • This recommendation is a matter for councils, in the context of their overall financial planning. The expectation is that Councils will act prudently to make provision for such commitments.

"The Scottish Government and councils should ensure that adequate resources are allocated to building maintenance for schools without PFI maintenance contracts."

  • Under the terms of the Concordat, it is for local authorities to deploy their resources according to local need and priorities.
  • Working in partnership we will continue to develop quality management information which will inform better decision-making, including on issues relating to maintenance.
  • Further guidance on whole life costings is to be developed.
  • As part of option appraisal and sound investment planning, authorities should be including maintenance as an integral part of cost benefit analysis.
  • Refer to guiding principle 3.


"To maximise their positive impact, refurbishments need to be designed taking an overall view of the whole school."

  • Authorities already work on the basis of this principle, aiming to ensure a holistic approach to design to maximise the benefits of school refurbishments. This is done within available resources and working within any site or structural constraints.
  • SG is funding a 3-year "schools programme" with Architecture+Design Scotland to work with local authorities on their school programmes. This will include providing advice on refurbishment projects, as appropriate.
  • Work will also continue with other partners to promote good practice in planning major refurbishments.
  • Refer to guiding principles 3, 6, 8.

"Environmental sustainability should be a key element of school design, not an added extra."

  • This is a priority for all authorities, who are all signatories to Scotland's Climate Change Declaration.
  • Environmental sustainability is already fundamental to the design of many new school buildings - eg Windygoul and Sanderson's Wynd Primaries in East Lothian; Newark Primary and Inverclyde Academy in Inverclyde; Galston Primary in East Ayrshire and Acharacle Primary in Highland.
  • SG is working with authorities and other relevant bodies such as the Carbon Trust and SUST to organise workshops and study visits and create a better knowledge base to promote and share good practice in sustainable school design. This will increasingly feature in the whole life costs of options.
  • New Building Regulations are likely to demand progressively greater improvements to the energy performance of new buildings, including schools.
  • The Change Scotland Act 2009 will also drive changes in school estate planning and investment.
  • Refer to guiding principle 6.

"Councils should consider preparing user guides for all new and refurbished schools to ensure that staff know how to make the best use of the facilities in their building."

  • Some Councils already provide user guides, and some have been extremely innovative in this area. This will feature in new Post Occupancy Evaluations
  • For example, South Lanarkshire has moved to providing DVD user guides for janitorial staff in primary schools, and has noted significant improvement in the use and management of their buildings.
  • SG already promotes the sharing of good practice on a wide range of issues eg through the Local Authority School Estate Network Group.
  • This issue will be raised with the Group and consideration will be given to the need to embed learning and familiarisation of the use of new buildings for staff and inductions for new staff.
  • Refer to guiding principles 2, 8.

"Councils should use the Scottish Executive's guidance Optimising the internal environment to make sure that future school designs strike a good balance for the comfort of everyone who uses the building."

  • Many authorities are already using the guidance, making environmental conditions a top priority. For instance, in Inverclyde, sun pipes, naturally operating ventilation systems, careful consideration of north v south faces, large open areas with natural light, are all common features in designs for new schools.
  • SG will continue to encourage the spreading of best practice about good design in terms of the internal environment - and run appropriate workshops - in collaboration with bodies such as Architecture+Design Scotland and the Carbon Trust.
  • Refer to guiding principles 2, 3.

"The Scottish Government and councils need to continue working to identify and share good (and bad) practice to ensure that the quality of design keeps improving."

  • SG and councils already work together in a variety of ways to identify and share learned. In addition to annual bilateral meetings, and continual direct engagement throughout the year, SG promotes the sharing of information between authorities by means of the case studies website and long term programmes such as Building Excellence.
  • SG also produces guidance and publications on design and a wide range of other subjects.
  • Councils use the Local Authority School Estate Network Group to compare and share - lessons to be learned and other things to avoid - from each other's experiences.
  • SG and councils, working with bodies such as Architecture+Design Scotland and the Carbon Trust, will continue to share information in a variety of ways, including the SG's own case studies website, seminars, workshops, conferences and other events.
  • Refer to guiding principles 2, 8.

"Councils should make sure they consult and involve school users at the design stages, even if this means the process takes longer."

  • Consultation, primarily with head teachers but increasingly also with teachers and pupils, is now well-established practice in councils across Scotland, and increasingly so.
  • SG sponsored the Senses of Place: Building Excellence project, taken forward by The Lighthouse, in which pupils, teachers and architects worked together to produce inspiring new design solutions.
  • SG and councils will continue to promote active consultation with school users at the design stage of projects.
  • SG will also sponsor The Lighthouse to run a follow up project, Senses of Place 2: Building Excellence - focusing on helping authorities to develop further practical and meaningful approaches to consultation.
  • Refer to guiding principle 1.

"Councils should complete post-occupancy evaluations as a matter of priority. They should make the results available to other councils and take up the opportunities offered through the Local Authority School Estate Network to compare notes and learn from each other."

  • The benefits of Post Occupancy Evaluation ( POE) have been consistently promoted by SG.
  • The use of POE is becoming standard practice within councils across Scotland where school buildings have been recently completed.
  • We will continue to work in partnership to embed and develop POE and for other than just new build.
  • Refer to guiding principle 2.


"Councils should estimate pupil rolls for at least 10 years ahead and should review these assessments at least annually."

  • SG produces pupil roll projections for 5 years ahead, based on information from the pupil census and the General Register Office for Scotland. Councils also provide estimates of future pupil rolls on an annual basis, some using their own methodology and others using Government figures.
  • It is for councils to determine the most appropriate and reliable length of projection for their needs. Long distance projections are by their nature difficult and likely to be subject to change.
  • Work already undertaken by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland ( ADES) will be further developed. The intention is to share the results across all authorities.
  • Refer to guiding principle 7.

"Councils need to build flexibility into their school estate plans to accommodate both longer-term demographic changes and unforeseen local changes. This might include school buildings that can be readily expanded or easily converted to other uses."

  • Councils work with all available intelligence and resources to meet local needs and adapt to changes in the best possible way. In this context, many councils are already building new schools with potential flexibility/expansion in mind, where local circumstances warrant it.
  • SG will continue to work with authorities to improve further this aspect of school estate management planning.
  • Refer to guiding principles 5, 9.

"The Scottish Government and councils should do more to share experiences and develop joint approaches to improving the school estate. There are potential efficiency savings to be made from more sharing of staff and technical expertise."

  • SG and councils already work together in a variety of ways to share expertise and develop joint approaches to improving the school estate.
  • In addition to annual bilateral meetings, and direct engagement throughout the year, SG promotes the sharing of information and good practice between authorities by means of the case studies website and long term programmes such as Building Excellence.
  • Councils use the Local Authority School Estate Network Group to share experiences and develop synergies and joint approaches.
  • SG and councils will continue to share experiences and expertise, and develop collaborative solutions.
  • Refer to guiding principle 2.

"Councils should transfer learning from experiences on school estate management to improve general asset management across their organisations as appropriate. COSLA should take a lead role in co-ordinating this, in consultation with the Scottish Government and the Improvement Service if appropriate."

  • In many councils the School Estate Management Plan has been the forerunner for wider Council Asset Management Plans.
  • This Strategy emphasises the need for schools to be seen as community assets within wider Council Asset Management Plans and Community Planning plans.
  • Refer to guiding principle 9.
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