Summary: Multiple pain points surround the process of facilities management in schools, from timely maintenance planning and health and safety requirements to – above all – working with a limited budget. Although financial support is restricted for public schools in the UK, there are ways to increase funding and implement an effective facilities management strategy. With the use of affordable CAFM Software, schools can make a positive impact on the overall teaching environment and improve the level of education provided to pupils.
The management of a school’s facility – e.g., the condition of buildings, the availability of teaching equipment, and the overall safety of the teaching environment – has a direct impact on the outcome of education provided by staff to pupils.
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%.
Alternatively, poorly maintained school buildings have an adverse effect on:
- The availability of classrooms, equipment, and learning resources
- Teacher and staff workload
- The health and safety of students
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%).
The issue surrounding a public school’s inability to deliver an effective facilities management plan – and therefore improve the level of education – is funding. Which is determined by a National Funding Formula (NFF) on a per-pupil basis and gifted by the local authority.
Between 2019-2025, the Department of Education (DfE) has kept school funding regular – between £6000 and £7000 per pupil. While a school’s outgoings are split between staff payments, learning resources, and so on, they remain cautious in their spending activities. Spending, on average, under £5000 per pupil a year from their allotted budget.
But, a tentative approach to spending – coupled with external funding possibilities – opens the door for headteachers to consider buying into a facilities management plan and utilising affordable Facilities Management Software to implement a working FM strategy in schools.
The Impact Successful Facilities Management Has on 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 – through space management and planning, maintenance, and access to amenities and resources – 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
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. It allows site managers to focus 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
- Improving the lighting used in buildings
- Optimising the use of daylight and window positions
- Maintaining working toilet facilities
- Ensuring good air quality through ventilation
Keep in mind, when it comes to optimising a teaching environment through an FM plan, there are precise areas that only a good facilities management strategy can provide.
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.
The Fallout From Poorly Managed School Facilities
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.
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. Health and Safety In Schools
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. 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.
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. Staff Well-Being & Productivity
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 over-worked teachers finding better working conditions at privately-funded or grammar schools.
Budgeting for a School Facilities Management Plan With Limited Funding
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.
Putting Your School Facility Management Plan into Action
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 certain activities to focus on for an FM plan to work efficiently:
- Maintenance schedules/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.
- Collaboration with stakeholders: To make sure everything runs smoothly, all stakeholders need to be involved and updated. That includes teachers, heads of departments, parents, taxpayers, students, the local authority, and PTA representatives.
- 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.
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