02 Scope of Suitability Core Fact Reporting
What are we assessing?
The assessment is of the school and its fitness for purpose when delivering the learning and teaching, leisure and social activities and the health and well-being of all users as part of Curriculum for Excellence. Within this there is a need to consider the different types of spaces within the school and the different activities for which they are used. Account should also be taken of the differing ideas on learner journeys e.g. re-thinking senior phases in high school and greater linkages to further or higher education; or blended early learning and primary stages.
In many instances schools are civic buildings with a wider community presence and a valuable community resource offering a range of public services. This is fully acknowledged; however, this Core Fact guidance focuses solely on the educational element.
Account should be taken of the dynamic nature of the education service, of important national and local policies and initiatives, and of each school's ability to accommodate and promote these within the school.
What are we assessing against?
There is no one right design for a school. School designs, like the designs of other buildings reflect aspects of what was considered appropriate at the time of construction, and will vary according to the available site, space, expected pupil roll and sector (primary, secondary or ASN). It is therefore not about assessing a school against the perfect school, nor ranking it against neighbouring schools, but rather considering it in the context of the paragraphs above and then reflecting how well it serves its purpose in terms of the agreed criteria (see section 3).
The suitability of schools in all three integrated sectors (primary, secondary and additional support needs (ASN)) should be assessed. Suitability assessments should include school facilities that are temporary or permanent and regardless of the procurement method, ownership or facilities management status.
Where early learning and childcare settings are on the same site as a primary, secondary or ASN these should be included and treated as part of the school.
When assessing suitability, all parts of the school used for the delivery of school education should be considered, whether or not they are also used for other purposes, such as community use, shared with another school, where the school hosts a learning partnership, etc.
Where school facilities are used for alternative purposes by local authorities, these other uses should not be taken into account in the assessment of suitability for the school, except in circumstances in which the dual use places restrictions on time-tabling for school use during the school day. For example, school sports and leisure facilities to which the school has unrestricted access during the school day, but which are available to the community out with school hours should be assessed in the same way as if they were solely for school use.
Staff houses and residential accommodation for pupils
Staff houses and accommodation for pupils should be excluded from the suitability rating reported to the Scottish Government. Although this is excluded from the scope, authorities still are encouraged to adopt this practice for the management of the properties.
Suitability versus Condition
A clear distinction between the definitions of suitability and condition has been drawn within The Condition Core Fact guidance document and is quoted here for ease of reference:
One potential source of confusion when assessing the condition rating for a school is the distinction between condition and suitability. In reporting the condition and suitability Core Facts, the following distinction in scope should be drawn between the two:
- Compliance with the design intent should be addressed under condition. Hence, condition deals with the state of repair of features or facilities that exist as part of the school fabric (and as part of its current design).
- Where the current design or design intent has been rendered inadequate or inappropriate by new requirements that maybe applied retrospectively, then this should be dealt with under condition. These requirements could arise as a consequence of regulatory or central government guidance. This aspect of condition should include the general health and safety requirement to reduce the risk to pupils, staff and the general public to a level which is as low as reasonably practicable.
- Discrimination requirements under the Equality Act and inclusion measures should be dealt with under suitability.
- Where it is considered that the design or design intent was already inadequate or inappropriate when viewed against legislation, regulations or regulatory or central government guidance existing and applicable at the time of installation, then this should be dealt with under condition. For example, the adequate provision of sanitary accommodation for pupils in accordance with the School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations (see transition elements).
- Matters of security of the school fabric, contents and occupants should be addressed under condition.
Aside from the above considerations, the adequacy of design or design intent, including the absence of any particular feature or facility, should be addressed under suitability. It should be noted that the way in which the buildings and facilities are used or operated (or indeed misused or mis-operated) is not part of condition. If a design regarded as unsuitable necessitates the use of the school facilities in a way that is out-with the design intent, then this is a matter for consideration under suitability e.g. the use of a practical teaching space as a general classroom. (Extract from: The Condition Core Fact. Scottish Government. November 2017.)
In order that a school's suitability rating does not include any issues which should be considered under condition, the school facilities should be assessed as though they were in good condition. For example; a leaking roof, however inconvenient, should not affect the suitability rating of the school but should instead be a matter to be considered in the context of the condition rating.
Please note that accessibility requirements under the Equality Act should be dealt with here under suitability.
The emphasis for accessibility is on an inclusion agenda that provides effective learning and teaching for all learners. The importance of a learning environment that is welcoming and accessible to learners with disabilities or additional support needs is a critical aspect of this. Legislation already requires authorities not only to take reasonable steps to avoid putting disabled pupils at a substantial disadvantage, but also to prepare 'accessibility strategies' for all schools to improve access to education for pupils with disabilities - access both to the physical environment and to the full curriculum, in particular supported by ICT facilities and developments.
The suitability assessment should consider the spaces of the school and the use for which they were designed, either at the initial building stage or by approved alteration thereafter. For example, a GP room converted to provide general teaching accommodation will now be considered as a classroom. Similarly, a classroom converted to a music technology room or a nurture room will now be considered in its new form.
Temporary repairs in place at the time of the assessment, for example a damaged window boarded over pending replacement, should not affect the suitability rating. However, permanent repairs or alterations, for example, the installation of window grilles which prevent windows opening properly or exclude a significant amount of natural light, should be taken into account when considering those aspects of the suitability assessment.
In a change from the previous guidance, a school should be considered for suitability based on the pupil roll currently in place.
Moreover, if there is a significant change in the pupil roll this would trigger a review of the suitability of the school.
The suitability assessment, in this context, does not include the way the school is managed, its image, ethos and reputation or issues such as cleanliness.
This guidance does not preclude an authority from assessing the way in which their school buildings and grounds are managed. They may choose to do so as part of the initial assessment process, but any data should not then be included in the overall suitability rating.