School estates: suitability reporting core facts

Guidance for local authorities on reporting on the suitability of school estates.

03 Methodology

The methodology for suitability requires to be sufficiently robust to produce consistency in approach when determining ratings in and across authorities. It also has been designed to be as user friendly as possible with the intention of allowing all involved to benefit from the process and to be encouraged to think about those things about a school and its grounds which make it suitable for education and enhance learning and teaching.

It is generally accepted that those best placed to assess the suitability of a building are the users, and therefore for a school these are the school management team(s) and faculty heads, along with the education core team from the authority. They are best placed to bring that assessment together, taking account as appropriate, of the views of others, principally staff and pupils.

For that reason, for each of the 'areas' to be assessed, illustrative exemplars for the 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' ratings have been provided in the style of the Education Scotland 'How Good is Our School' self-evaluation model, with which the school management team will already be familiar. In each of the illustrative exemplars, four alternative statements are provided for each of the 'factors' and the most appropriate is selected for each of the areas being assessed.


In order to capture all of the information necessary to arrive at a suitability rating for the school as a whole, six 'areas' have been identified, five of which are common to all schools namely:

Learning and Teaching Spaces (General)
Internal Social Spaces
Internal Facilities
External Social Spaces
External Facilities

and for secondary schools or schools with a secondary department there is a sixth area which is 'Learning and Teaching Spaces (Practical)' in order to cover dedicated specialist practical accommodation.

Many learning spaces are used for a variety of purposes and where this happens it is correct to assess them more than once. This could result in the same space being assessed differently, depending on usage. For example, a space might achieve an 'A' rating as a dining hall but a 'C' rating as an assembly hall or PE hall.

Each of these 'areas' is then rated:

A: Good - Performing well and operating effectively (the school buildings and grounds support the delivery of services to children and communities);

B: Satisfactory - Performing well but with minor problems (the school buildings and grounds generally support the delivery of services to children and communities);

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);

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).


To ensure that the ratings are consistent and comparable, they should be assessed against five key 'factors', which have equal weighting. These are:

Functionality e.g. shape, size, adaptability, lighting,

Accessibility e.g. ease of access for all users,

Environmental Conditions e.g. temperature, acoustics, ventilation, natural light, controllability,

Safety and Security e.g. heat sources, windows, fire doors,

Fixed Furniture and Fittings e.g. ICT infrastructure, storage, display boards, power points.

The examples in the above list are illustrative rather than exhaustive or exclusive.


Each of the 'areas' has been allocated a 'weighting' in order that the overall calculation for the school should reflect the relative importance of each of the 'areas'. The workbook which calculates the overall category for the school uses both 'major' and 'intermediate' weightings. The major weightings are shown below and the areas to which the 'intermediate' weightings are applied can be seen in the appendix. In all schools, the 'weighting' for learning and teaching areas is 50%.

Therefore, in primary schools or primary departments the major weightings are:

Learning and Teaching Spaces 50%
Internal Social Spaces 15%
Internal Facilities 15%
External Social Spaces 10%
External Facilities 10%

In secondary schools or secondary departments, the major weightings are:

Learning and Teaching Spaces (General) 25%
Learning and Teaching Spaces (Practical) 25%
Internal Social Spaces 15%
Internal Facilities 15%
External Social Spaces 10%
External Facilities 10%

ASN accommodation

ASN schools or dedicated accommodation within a larger school should be assessed in the same way as primary and secondary schools using whichever workbooks are the most appropriate. In addition, there is provision in the workbook to assess specialist ASN/SFL facilities. The assessments will take account of the range of environments and more specialist facilities and equipment required to suit the diverse needs of the pupils. Depending on the pupils, this might include dispersed dining, smaller breakout spaces, areas where children with ASD/sensory issues can avoid overstimulation, or safe and nurturing areas where children with SEBN might feel supported. Vehicular access and external circulation for ASN pupils are also important and should be considered under 'external facilities'.


The ratings for each 'intermediate-area' should be recorded using the suitability assessment worksheets, which have been provided to each local authority. There are separate worksheets for assessing primary and secondary schools or departments. Collectively this establishes an assessment score of major areas and ultimately overall assessment of the facility.

Two versions of assessments have been developed. One is a text document or worksheet for printing off for use when carrying out the actual assessments for each 'intermediate-area' - simplified versions of these are appended to this document for illustration. The second is an Excel spreadsheet or workbook for entering and collating the data. This has been devised in such a way that all the calculations will be carried out automatically upon completion of all the relevant sections. In both versions, a covering page provides some guidance as to how the assessment should be carried out. Details on how to use the workbook are supplied separately with the workbook when it is issued.

Further electronic copies of the worksheets are available from the Scottish Government's school estate website. Whilst it is not anticipated that the underlying methodology or weightings used in these will change, it is possible that the accompanying guidance sheet or examples provided could be updated to further improve usability in light of feedback from authorities.

While all the information contained in the workbooks will be of interest to local authorities in terms of school estate management planning; only the overall suitability rating for each school will be reported to the Scottish Government.

Documented process

Local authorities should have a stated system setting out their process for assigning suitability categories to schools which adopts this guidance. In addition, an evidence-based auditable record of that process and its results should be maintained. As a minimum, this should reference the process used and document the sources of input data, the names and roles of the participants, the date when the suitability assessment was completed, and the suitability categories assigned to each factor and space within the workbook. The record should also note any amendments made to the overall school suitability rating arrived at by the standard process.

Comments box

For local authorities' own purposes, a Comments Box is provided on each worksheet in order that the person/s undertaking the assessment can flag up any issue of particular merit or concern. It is good practice to prepare comments when areas are rated either 'C' or 'D' to allow these to be identified and considered and also to better inform, or understand, the suitability performance of a facility. Moreover, it is also good practice to identify what is working well to consider if the success can be replicated elsewhere.



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