When it comes to education and the built environment, like with most areas, there is often a lot of ‘buzz’ and focus on new. New schools and BSF (Building Schools for the Future) are often in the news and press, resulting in headteachers/governors believing that this is the direction they should be heading.

However, there is certainly a lot to be said for existing schools. Most schools are normally in suitable locations and are generally of adequate size.

Unfortunately, the wider problem is that schools on the whole are in massive disrepair as a result of many years of underinvestment, and whilst funding is available, it is scarce.

Whilst funding remains a fundamental issue, the focus on GEMS and taking an informed long-term approach to school building management, is a step in the right direction. If a school seeks advice from a good School Building Consultant and work with them for 5-10 years; having a well-considered strategic / development plan, this really help to improve their estate.

Projects that schools may consider factoring into their plans include:

  • Re-roofing and thermally insulating
  • New windows and doors, and maybe re-cladding external walls
  • Get the external fabric watertight and insulated
  • New boilers and full new central heating systems – get the buildings warm
  • New hot water systems
  • New fire alarm – get the building compliance and safe
  • Other fire safety improvements
  • Electrical re-wiring
  • New boundary fences and safeguarding improvements
  • Then start doing the nicer to have projects internally such as toilet refurbs, kitchen refurbs, classroom refurbs
  • Then start to look at sports facilities and improving everything bit by bit as part of a gradual strategic plan
  • Then maybe extensions and re-modelling to improve classroom sizers and address special issues, and building layouts, and appearances of main entrances, drainage improvements, classroom extensions, assembly hall refurbishments, etc. – the nice to have things, once the buildings are wind and watertight and safe and compliant

The focus for any improvement works should be value; using quality materials and designs to reduce ongoing maintenance / repair needs. This in turn helps to reduce downtime; allowing teachers to teach instead of having to deal with hassles. Allowing school leaders and senior management to focus on other key issues and general school development.

An improved school environment has several knock-on effects including higher numbers of pupils on roll, better reputation, increased morale, better pupil attendance, improved academic results, better overall finances…the list goes on.  

In summary, there is a strong case for repairing, developing and improving existing schools, rather than major funding for school rebuilding programmes.

Whilst it won’t happen overnight, seeking advice and investing in a long-term programme of repairs and improvements will stand a school in good stead; creating a learning environment that is fit for purpose over the years to come.  By utilising funding when it is available, and tackling jobs by priority, the cost will be much less than building a new school.

Lea Hough has been working with some schools over several years and can testify that such an approach can and does work. We have lots of examples of schools that were in dire straits when we first got involved, but over time, by identifying a list of projects, and undertaking 1-2 projects per year, all the main jobs gradually get done and the school gets put into order. Some of the schools are now transformed.

For more information on our approach or to arrange an initial consultation with one of our School Building Consultants, please get in touch.

Preston Office
Telephone: 01772 458866
Blackburn Office
Telephone: 01254 260196
Clitheroe Office
Telephone: 01200 320040
Lancaster Office
Telephone: 01524 899850
Manchester Office
Telephone: 0161 265 0070
Lea Hough is a trading name of Lea Hough & Co LLP, which is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales under partnership number OC306054.
Registered Office: Oakshaw House, 2 Capricorn Park, Blakewater Road, Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 5QR