School Estate Statistics 2023

Statistics from the 2023 school estates core facts survey

Background Notes

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. To avoid recording a phased project multiple times across 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 refers to schools that were built or refurbished under a public/private partnership arrangement (previously known as PPP) and NPD refers to schools that were built or refurbished under Non-Profit Distributing models.

SSF refers to schools built under the Schools for the Future programme.

LEIP refers to the schools that were built under the Learning Estate Investment Programme. The first phase of this programme was announced in 2019 and it anticipated that several projects under it are in progress.

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.

School condition and suitability ratings

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:

  • Suitability A: Good – Performing well and operating effectively (the school buildings and grounds support the delivery of services to children and communities)
  • Suitability B: Satisfactory – Performing well but with minor problems (the school buildings and grounds generally support the delivery of services to children and communities)
  • Suitability 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)
  • Suitability 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)

Where a school is decanted during building work etc. condition and suitability ratings for the decant accommodation should be reported.

In the 2023 survey condition and suitability ratings were not returned for two hospital based special schools and three special school support hubs with no pupils on roll. In addition, no rating was returned for one newly built school where surveys have not yet been completed.

Guidance for local authorities on calculating school condition can be found here: School estates: condition reporting core facts.

Guidance on suitability calculations can be found here: School estates: suitability reporting core facts.

General guidance on reporting on the school estate was published alongside these and can be found here: School estates: core facts overview.

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 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 and subsequent data collection processes indicates that implementation continues to be mixed but there is a move towards using the latest guidance with fewer surveys based on the old guidance now being reported. More than 500 condition surveys were carried out in the first five months of 2023 with six per cent reported to be based on the older guidance. Sixteen per cent of the condition surveys undertaken in 2020 were reported as based on the older guidance.

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 guidance used for condition ratings reported in the statistics prior to 2019 can be found here: Previous guidance for local authorities on assessing the condition of school buildings.

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: Previous guidance for local authorities on assessing and reporting the Suitability Core Fact. Information on suitability of schools has been collected since April 2010.

The current guidance notes that full condition surveys and suitability surveys of the school estate should be carried out at least every five years.

Reported condition and suitability survey dates from the 2023 collection shows 473 schools (19%) with the latest condition survey date more than 5 years ago and 453 schools (18%) with the latest suitability survey more than five years ago. In addition, no date was reported for 38 condition surveys and 12 suitability surveys. A number of outstanding surveys were delayed due to COVID-19 related restrictions. At least one third of the outstanding surveys are scheduled to be completed over the next year.

Analysis of historical reported condition and suitability ratings of a school in the year before and after a survey has shown that in 90% of instances where it had been more than five years since the previous survey the rating did not change. Therefore, there is no evidence that a gap of more than five years between surveys will necessarily have an impact on the quality of the reported data.

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. 

The school capacity reported in these statistics is based on physical teaching spaces in a school which are designated for full time class teaching. Temporary accommodation, for example modular external teaching spaces or the designated use of a general purpose space as a class base for a particular school session, may not be included in the capacity calculations if they are not part of the authorities longer term planning.

The physical capacity of school buildings is just one factor that determines the overall capacity of the school. Therefore, the capacity information from the school estates collection should not be used in isolation to determine whether a school has capacity to accommodate more pupils.

Local authorities determine the formulae used to calculate capacity, in line with Scottish Government guidance (Circular No. 03/2004) Circular containing guidance on determining school capacities. Additional guidance for calculating primary school capacity was published by the Scottish Government in 2014: Determining primary school capacity: guidance for local authorities.

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 1 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.

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.

Data on the total gross internal floor area (GIA) and area within the perimeter (AWP) of the school estate is no longer collected.

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.

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.


The estimated cost to local authorities of extracting and validating this information is £14,000 based on the 2023 collection.



Back to top