Chapter 6: Background notes
6.1 Sources and timing
The School Estates Core Facts Survey covers all local authority schools open on 1st April 2020. It does not cover grant-aided schools, independent schools or early learning and childcare establishments. Virtual schools are also excluded. The survey also collects information on the number of schools built or substantially refurbished during the last financial year (1st April to 31st March).
Information from the survey is used to establish baselines, inform targets, inform spending decisions, support monitoring and evaluation of progress over time, and support assessments of value for money in the school estate.
School Estates data was previously collected in 2004 and then annually from 2007. The collection was piloted in December 2003. However, as the 2003 data were incomplete and often of poor quality, the results were not published. Not all local authorities could answer all of the questions in the survey at that time.
Pupil numbers for each school are based on those from the previous Pupil Census – for 2020 this is the September 2019 Pupil Census. However, some local authorities may choose to provide updated pupil rolls during the School Estates Core Facts Survey collection process. Schools opened after September but before April will have no pupils recorded for that school year unless this figure is provided during the School Estates collection. For more information on the Pupil Census please see the Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland publication.
This is the second ‘School Estate Statistics’ report since the reporting schedule changed in 2019 to improve the timeliness of the publication and to better meet user needs. School estate statistics for 2010-2018 were published in Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland.
6.2 Dundee City 2020 data
During the 2020 School Estates Core Facts Survey data collection process Dundee City advised that, due to competing demands (including the COVID-19 response), they would be unable to submit their data in time for it to be quality assured and processed for the September 8th 2020 publication date.
This missing data for Dundee City has been handled in the following ways depending on the specific statistics being reported:
- For condition and suitability ratings, school capacities, shared campus and community services information, 2019 data was used as a proxy for 2020.
- Information on new builds and refurbishments has been reported as not available. Using data on new builds and refurbishments collected in 2019 would have led to double counting of this work as it has already been reported in School Estate Statistics 2019. Information on planned work in Dundee City in 2020 indicates that little or no work was due to be completed so this missing data has little or no impact on statistics on the number of schools built or refurbished.
- No planned building work from 2019 was reported in 2020 as all the projects reported in 2019 were due to be completed before the 2020 survey date.
- Data on pupil rolls is taken from the September 2019 census and so were unaffected by the missing data.
Throughout all of the statistics for 2020, only information on schools that were open on 1st April 2020 was used. No schools opened or closed in Dundee City between 1st April 2019 and 1st April 2020.
The use of 2019 data as a proxy for 2020 for some of the statistics (condition and suitability ratings, school capacities, shared campus and community services information) followed advice from Dundee City that no major changes were expected to that data between 2019 and 2020. Similarly information on planned work indicates that the missing data for Dundee has little or no impact on the statistics on new builds and refurbishments. Therefore valid comparisons can be made between the statistics for 2020 and previous years.
The 2020 data for Dundee City will be collected in due course and used to produce revised 2020 statistics. We currently plan to publish the revised 2020 statistics in the 2021 School Estate Statistics publication. The 2021 School Estates Statistics publication will supersede all previously published statistics.
6.3 Schools built or substantially refurbished
Only new builds or refurbishments with a cost of half a million pounds or more for primary and one million pounds or more for secondary and special schools have been included in these statistics. Where a school is being built or refurbished as part of a phased project, this is only included once a phase (or multiple phases combined) is completed and has a value greater than or equal to the amounts stated above. In order to avoid recording a school once a year over several years, any subsequent phases will not be recorded.
School extensions meeting the cost thresholds are counted under substantial refurbishments.
School building projects may be funded by multiple sources but only one source of funding per school is recorded. This should be the source that provided the most funding.
PFI referred to schools that were built or refurbished under a public/private partnership arrangement (previously known as PPP) and NPD referred to schools that were built or refurbished under Non-Profit Distributing models.
SSF refers to schools built under the Schools for the Future programme. This programme is funded via a mixture of capital grant and revenue support through the Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) pipeline of investment.
Figures published prior to 2013 on number of schools built should not be used as the data was revised following robust quality assurance in later years.
6.4 School condition and suitability ratings
Guidance for local authorities on calculating school condition can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/condition-core-facts-publication/. Guidance on suitability calculations can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/suitability-core-facts-publication/. General guidance on reporting on the school estate was published alongside these and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/overview-core-facts-publication/.
Local authorities were asked to use this guidance for the first time in the 2019 School Estates Core Facts Survey. However, implementation of this was mixed, with some local authorities reporting all of their ratings using the previous guidance and some reporting having used different guidance for different schools and/or condition and suitability. Quality assurance during the 2020 data collection process indicated that implementation has continued to be mixed.
Testing during the development of the new guidance showed that it was technically possible that a school that would have been borderline under the old rating guidance may fall the other side of the boundary under the new guidance. However the overall impact of any such changes at national and local authority level was determined to be minimal. This was confirmed by analysis of the 2019 school estates data which showed that changes in condition and suitability ratings at national level between 2018 and 2019 were consistent with changes between previous collections. Changes between the 2019 and 2020 collections are also consistent with previous years. Therefore, the implementation of the new guidance does not affect the validity of historical comparisons at a national and local authority level.
The condition of a school is based on the following criteria, as assessed by local authorities:
Condition A: Good – Performing well and operating effectively (physical element carries out function totally as new including consideration of the transverse elements);
Condition B: Satisfactory – Performing adequately but showing minor deterioration (physical element carries out function satisfactorily, may show signs of age and including consideration of some transverse elements);
Condition C: Poor – Showing major defects and/or not operating adequately (physical element does not carry out function effectively without continuous repair, shows signs of age and does not consider most of the transverse elements);
Condition D: Bad – Economic life expired and/or risk of failure.
The suitability of a school is based on the following criteria, as assessed by local authorities:
Condition A: Good – Performing well and operating effectively (the school buildings and grounds support the delivery of services to children and communities);
Condition B: Satisfactory – Performing well but with minor problems (the school buildings and grounds generally support the delivery of services to children and communities);
Condition C: Poor – Showing major problems and/or not operating optimally (the school buildings and grounds impede the delivery of activities that are needed for children and communities in the school);
Condition D: Bad – Does not support the delivery of services to children and communities (the school buildings and grounds seriously impede the delivery of activities that are needed for children and communities in the school).
Condition and suitability ratings have not been returned for some schools where they have been newly built and a survey has not yet been conducted to determine these. There is one special school in Aberdeen City – the Hospital & Home Tuition Service – for which no condition and suitability ratings are available as it is based within the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital.
Where a school is decanted during building work etc. condition and suitability ratings for the decant accommodation should be reported.
The guidance used for condition ratings reported in the statistics prior to 2019 can be found here: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20180212212830/http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2007/03/12142801/0.
This guidance was published in March 2007 to ensure consistency across local authorities when assigning condition ratings to schools. Prior to 2009/10, some local authorities were not following this guidance, so some of the improvement in condition ratings over the years may reflect the adoption of this guidance.
The previous guidance on recording school suitability was published in October 2008 and can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2008/09/19123626/0. Information on suitability of schools has been collected since April 2010.
6.5 School capacity
School capacity is a measure of how many pupils can be taught in a school based on the number and size of teaching spaces available. It is not a measure of the size of a school building – ancillary spaces such as staff rooms and offices, toilets, catering and dining facilities are not included in capacity calculations.
Local authorities determine the formulae used to calculate capacity, in line with Scottish Government guidance (Circular No. 03/2004) https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20180517195945/http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2005/01/20528/50013. Additional guidance for calculating primary school capacity was published by the Scottish Government in 2014: https://www.gov.scot/publications/determining-primary-school-capacity-guidance/.
Capacity formulae therefore vary between local authorities and school types. Information on the calculation methods used by each authority is provided in Tables 6.1 and 6.2 of the School Estates Supplementary Tables. There is also variation between local authorities on whether planning capacity or working capacity is reported in this collection. These differing approaches to measuring capacity should be borne in mind if making comparisons between authorities.
The figures on the percentage of capacity used in each school in this publication were calculated using the number of pupils recorded at each school in the September Pupil Census. A small number of authorities/schools chose to provide updated pupil rolls during the School Estates Core Facts Survey collection process. The updated rolls are used in these cases.
Schools that opened between the September Pupil Census and the 1st April will be recorded as having no pupils on roll unless the local authorities supplied figures within the School Estates Core Facts data collection.
Information on the capacity of special schools is not collected as this is not an appropriate measure given the specialised nature of the facilities provided and the variation in the needs of their pupils and the space they require.
The capacity for some primary or secondary schools with special units may exclude the special units on the basis that capacity is not collected for special schools. However, their rolls may include the pupils attending the special unit in addition to those based in the primary/secondary school. This may make the school’s capacity use percentage appear higher than it is in reality.
Some schools with Gaelic units report their capacities and rolls combined on the main school’s record rather than splitting them across the separate schools’ records. In these cases the roll and capacity of the Gaelic units appears to be zero. This has occurred where the Gaelic unit is based in the building of the main school and the local authority has not split the capacity across the two establishments. Schools where this has occurred can be identified by comments explaining this on their records in the school level dataset.
Due to variations in reporting practices, the capacities reported in this publication and any associated tables or releases should not be used in the context of consideration of placing requests. The technicalities of capacity calculations also mean these figures may be of limited use when considering the utilisation of space in a school with respect to COVID-19 related physical distancing.
Data on the total gross internal floor area (GIA) and area within the perimeter (AWP) of the school estate is no longer collected.
6.6 Shared campuses
A school should be recorded as a shared campus if it shares a site with another separate school and they share facilities used in the normal delivery of education. This includes facilities such as playgrounds, sports pitches, gyms and assembly halls but does not include facilities such as access roads and car parks. This applies whether the schools permanently share the site and if a school has been temporarily decanted into another school with a differing SEED code (unique identifier code for schools).
Schools sharing with nurseries should not be recorded as shared campuses unless they also share with another separate school.
A through school – a school with the same SEED code for primary and secondary – should not be recorded as a shared campus unless it shares a site with another separate school. Special units where the same head teacher heads the unit and the school should also not be recorded as shared campuses.
6.7 Community services
A school is recorded as having community services if there is space within it exclusively dedicated to and managed by those providing community services, such as dental, medical or police or social work. This does not refer to use of school amenities such as sports or cultural facilities by community groups. The 2008 survey guidance clarified and restricted what should be included in this category, this should be borne in mind if making comparisons prior to 2008.
School roll figures used in all tables with pupil numbers and percentages in the 2018 and 2019 publications were updated in September 2020 as pupils in special schools had been erroneously excluded from these statistics.
Data on the percentage of schools in a good or satisfactory condition in 2016 were corrected in 2017 due to 2015 percentages being used in error and so differ slightly from figures previously published in the supplementary tables. These figures were also amended in table 5.1 of the supplementary tables. This did not affect the 2016 figures on the number of schools in good or satisfactory condition.
In 2012, we revised the data on schools built in 2010/11 to take account of additional information received whilst collecting the 2012 school estates data. This was due to one school being recorded as built/substantially refurbished on the 2011 school estates return when the work was not completed until 2011/12.
Suitability figures for 2010, 2011 and 2012 were corrected in 2013 to take account of revised suitability information for one East Dunbartonshire school in 2010, 39 in 2011 and one in 2012 and so differ slightly from previously published figures.
As a result of changes to the Local Government Finance collections we are no longer producing information on capital and revenue expenditure on the school estate. Changes to the way the local government finance recorded NPD/PFI rebuilds have meant it is no longer possible to produce this on a consistent basis. If you require this information please contact us.
6.9 Changes to data
The 2020 data for Dundee City will be collected in due course and used to produce revised 2020 statistics. We currently plan to publish the revised 2020 statistics in the 2021 School Estate Statistics publication.
The Scottish Government policy on revisions and corrections is available here:
It is not always feasible to correct all instances of incorrect statistics across all historical publications and releases. However, all statistics shown in new publication bulletins will be correct at the time of release.
Corrections to published school estate statistics are described in the notes above.
The estimated cost to local authorities of extracting and validating this information is £7,000 based on the 2020 collection.
6.11 Rounding and symbols
All percentages are rounded separately so breakdowns may not sum to the total shown.
The following symbols are used:
: = not available
0 = nil or rounds to nil
# = not applicable