Local authorities will maintain the Core Fact data principally for their own purposes, and will undertake assessments on these to a timescale which is appropriate to their individual needs. Many authorities now carry this out as a rolling programme to best maintain the data and spread the resource requirements over time.
Suitability surveys are to be carried out, as a minimum, every 5 years.
Review and update of Suitability data
The surveys shall also be reviewed annually and if there have been no material changes made to the property or to the service demands on the property they shall remain unchanged.
However, if any of the following triggers occur then a new full survey will be undertaken:
- building works affecting areas across the school,
- if there is a significant change in the pupil roll, or
- if the local authority considers it appropriate.
The data reported annually to Scottish Government is the 'A' to 'D' suitability rating for each school and the date when the latest full suitability survey was undertaken, as set out in the workbook.
Consistency in reporting
The assessment of suitability, by its very nature, is a subjective exercise and one of the greatest challenges in this Core Fact for the local authority is achieving consistency in the results at school and authority levels.
To ensure consistency of reporting, a number of authorities have found it helpful to:
- use members of the education core team with the authority to work with school management teams across a number of schools to assist in providing a consistent approach to assessment,
- use one appropriately experienced member of staff to check and validate all returns, and
- to challenge 'why' where results have changed.
While it is recognised that the users' input to suitability assessment is important, it is the responsibility of local authorities to ensure that ratings assigned are accurate and robust prior to reporting them either in the local context or to the Scottish Government.
A 'moderation' exercise is therefore an important part of the process in which authorities would engage in an overall view of the returns, perhaps comparing new ratings with those previously held and reviewing any 'surprising' results. If the recommended methodology is followed, with the assessment being supported by the education core team from the authority, then there should already be a greater consistency in the results and therefore less call for moderation.
Of particular interest are the ratings for new or refurbished schools and any differing ratings for similarly designed and similarly operating schools, as these allow comparisons to be made.
Interface with other local authority processes and tools
The suitability core facts assessments should not be influenced by the results of any other options or investment appraisals.
The valuable detailed data collected from the suitability core facts should be used by the authority through the school estate management and planning to drive a range of benefits (see Overview 'purpose' for details).
Staff awareness raising
While the methodology and worksheets have been designed to be user friendly, local authorities will find it helpful to brief management teams, and those undertaking assessments, prior to the first round of ratings with the refreshed guidance.