Why School Facilities Management Is Important & Best CAFM Tools On a Budget

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What Type of Facilities Do You Manage?

What Is School Facilities Management?

School facilities management focuses on the upkeep of areas such as school buildings and grounds maintenance, classroom space planning, safe access to toilets and water, and the availability of learning resources and teaching equipment.

Well-maintained school facilities are essential for supporting high-quality education and providing an exceptional learning environment, which is why the Department of Education (DfE) has allocated over £15 billion since 2015 solely to the upkeep of school facilities.

However, more needs to be done in the UK when it comes to facility management in schools. A report by The National Education Union found that nine in 10 schools had major defects in at least one building component in the 20,000 buildings inspected. Poorly maintained school buildings have an adverse effect on:

  • Pupil educational outcomes
  • Teacher and staff workload
  • The health and safety of students
  • The availability of classrooms, equipment, and learning resources

Alternatively, a well-maintained facility is directly associated with higher student achievement. A school building that is free from disruption increases teaching time and reduces teacher turnover rate by 25%.

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But, the issue surrounding a public school’s inability to deliver a successful facilities management plan is funding. Funding is determined by a National Funding Formula (NFF) on a per-pupil basis and gifted by local authorities.

What Does Good Facilities Management Look Like In Schools?

“[Segun] Ogunsaju (1980) maintained that the quality of education that children receive bears direct relevance to the availability or lack thereof of physical facilities and overall atmosphere in which learning takes place”.

More than 40 years later and Ogunsaju’s observation is still relevant in UK schools today.Well-managed school facilities are proven to have:

  • Higher attendance rates among students
  • Fewer stressful scenarios for staff and teachers
  • Higher academic achievements
  • Successful Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) graded inspections

Keep in mind, when it comes to optimising a teaching environment through FM, there are precise areas that only a good facilities management strategy can achieve.

For instance, take a school’s ability to optimise the impact of daylight. A study found that children who were exposed to more natural light progressed 20% faster in math and 26% faster in reading than those taught in locations with less available sunlight.

How Poor School Facility Management Affects Education Outcomes

Although schools collectively spent £1.67 billion on buildings and maintenance – the second biggest outgoing for UK schools in 2018 – that doesn’t necessarily mean this was part of a facilities management strategy. More likely, these costs were reactive, following a council’s or site manager’s inspection.

UK School Spending 2018

Poorly maintained school facilities harm both teachers and students. They affect teacher recruitment, workload, retention, and commitment. While a mismanaged teaching environment can impact student behaviour, health, and engagement.

With no school facility management plan in place, three areas suffer the most:

1. The Health and Safety of Pupils, Teachers, & Visitors

By far the most important aspect of running a school is ensuring the health and safety of students, staff, and visitors. It is the responsibility of the headteacher to ensure regular risk assessment is carried out. This involves:

  • Checking and removing asbestos
  • Testing fire safety protocols
  • Carrying out regular building maintenance work
  • Testing drinking water supplies

2. The Teaching Environment

Without consideration for a school’s surroundings, the teaching environment is impacted. Outside noise causes students to be distracted, excessive noise causes stress, and poor air quality causes drowsiness that limits a student’s attention span.

A YouGov survey showed just 45% of UK adults who attended government-funded comprehensive schools labelled their education ‘good’. That’s sustainably lower than those who attended privately-funded schools (77%).

Then there’s the issue of available classroom space and learning resources. Insufficient classroom space or over-crowded classrooms mean teachers are overworked and pupil counts exceed the limits of classrooms – meaning they’re taught in areas not suitable for proper educational teachings with a lack of equipment.

While a 2019 Ofsted report found how a lack of physical resources—including computers and audio-visual resources—restricted a teacher’s instructional ability.

3. The Workplace Well-Being of Staff

Almost 50% of teachers believe that the condition of their workplace harms their well-being. If the productivity of staff and teachers is harmed, then their efforts for teaching students will be too. As are teacher retention rates, with many overworked teachers finding better working conditions at privately funded or grammar schools.

How Achievable Is School Facility Management On a Small Budget?

Between 2019-2025, the DfE has kept school funding regular – between £6000 and £7000 per pupil. While a school’s outgoings are split between staff payments and learning resources, they remain cautious in their spending activities. Spending, on average, under £5000 per pupil a year from their allotted budget.

Between 2019-2025, the Department of Education (DfE) has kept school funding regular - between £6000 and £7000 per pupil

With a tentative approach to spending – coupled with external funding possibilities – schools have the option to buy into a successful facilities management plan and utilise affordable facilities management solutions.

As headteachers meticulously budget their yearly funding, the option to purchase a tool to automate and improve school facilities management is far from their minds – although 16% of Comparesoft CAFM Software buyers are from the education industry.

But CAFM Software – among other options – isn’t as expensive as one might presume. Prices start from as little as £10 per user, per month. Pricing can then vary depending on multiple factors:

  • Number of users (will access be given to site managers, teachers, heads of departments, etc)
  • Number of sites/buildings (will the same system be used for multiple school facilities?)
  • Amount of assets (including learning resources, P.E equipment, and science equipment)
  • Access to features (do you require all features or should you prioritise a few?)
  • Requirements for extras (do you need extras like notification and alert systems and mobile access?)

Schools are cautious when spending their yearly budget and understandably so. Money needs to be kept aside for emergency repairs, equipment replacement, and student trips. But are they too cautious?

On average, UK schools are given between £6000 and £7000 (2019-2025) per pupil, but only spend £4,554 of that funding per pupil. In 2018 alone, over 13,000 UK schools were in surplus at the end of the year.

There’s also the option of external funding – UK schools raised a total of £1.61 billion by doing so during 2017-208 – by:

  • Renting out facilities outside of school hours for quizzes, raffles, and sporting events
  • Preparing their own food instead of using local authority providers
  • Receiving donations from parents, local businesses, and PTA fundraising events

That’s not to mention the return on investment that a school facilities management plan will provide. Helping to reduce reactive maintenance and emergency repair costs to buildings, vehicles, and equipment.

What FM Services Need Managing in School Facilities?

In facilities management, hard FM services refer to the physical aspect of a building while soft FM services encompass the usage of a facility. Although priorities differ, each service within these two categories is important.

Hard FM tasks in a school facility will include:

  • Maintenance of department buildings (such as roofs, windows, and doors)
  • Having correct lighting in classrooms and hallways
  • Ensuring heating and air conditioning units are in working order

Soft FM tasks in a school facility will include:

  • Catering services for school meals
  • The cleaning and hygiene of classrooms
  • Ground maintenance of outside play areas

On the surface, a facilities management strategy may only encompass the general aesthetics of a school’s site – classrooms, playing grounds, and cafeterias. But a precise facilities management strategy offers much more in terms of focusing on hard and soft FM services that are crucial for delivering a successful teaching environment. That includes:

  • Keeping the right temperature in classrooms
  • Providing access to drinking water
  • Optimising the use of daylight and window positions
  • Maintaining working toilet facilities
  • Ensuring good air quality through ventilation

How Headteachers Can Utilise CAFM Software for Better School Facility Planning

Around 11 million pupils are studying in the UK in roughly 32,000 schools – from nurseries to secondary schools. To help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of those pupils and the 600,000 teachers, an effective school facilities management plan needs to be in place.

The DfE’s 16-page requirements for school facilities, titled Advice on standards for school premises, lists advice for standardising the running and use of equipment and facilities. It touches on toilet facilities, medical accommodations, lighting, acoustics, outdoor space, and more.

One key advantage of utilising computer-aided facility management tools is being able to plan for facility services. A plan can help to determine several maintenance-related elements like:

  • What work is required on a school building
  • How much maintenance will cost from the school funding budget
  • How long maintenance work is predicted to take
  • Understanding the downtime and inaccessibility of educational resources

Having an FM plan on a shareable and accessible system allows everyone to see what tasks are planned. That includes teachers, heads of departments, parents, taxpayers, students, the local authority, and PTA representatives.

It also means site managers can plan for facility operations that require downtime to buildings or equipment to be performed outside of schools hours. Considering maintenance work during holidays (Easter, Christmas, Summer, etc.) or small FM operations during bank holiday weekends.

And then there are the features; are there certain features you need to prioritise over others? Keep in mind that most CAFM Software vendors supply tools that focus on:

  • Planned maintenance
  • Asset management
  • Room booking
  • Equipment check-in/check-out systems
  • Event booking
  • Transport booking
  • Health and safety

Improve Teaching Environments & Student Education With School Facilities Management Software

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What Type of Facilities Do You Manage?

2 Key Areas to Consider When Executing a School Facility Management Plan

It’s all well and good having a facilities management solution that matches your school’s requirements, but how are you going to make the most of it? There are two key activities to focus on for an FM plan to work efficiently:

  1. Building maintenance planning: One of the most effective ways to ensure health and safety is to keep school surroundings in good working order, which requires thorough preventive and planned maintenance. Planned maintenance for HVAC systems, building cosmetics, and structural repairs can take place in the summer to limit distractions during school hours.
  2. Equipment management: Reducing costs through asset tracking and management is one benefit of Facilities Management Software. Books, desks, tables, whiteboards, stationery, projectors, and more can all be accounted for and assigned to specific classrooms when needed.