Teaching and learning held back by ‘outdated’ facilities

‘Outdated’ facilities are having direct consequences on pupil outcomes, according to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA). Following a report last year from the National Audit Office which found that around 700,000 pupils were learning in a school needing major rebuilding or refurbishment, BESA commissioned a special survey looking at the provision and condition of school building and infrastructure of more than 900 schools. They have now summarised the findings in a report, State of the Estate, which finds school leaders have concerns across a number of areas, including facilities for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and pupils with special educational need and disabilities (SEND).

Schools surveyed consistently felt their SEND facilities required significant investment, with an identified need for spaces such as therapy or sensory rooms which the majority of schools did not have. 80 per cent of schools surveyed would like to have adapted PE facilities for SEND, but currently don’t, while of those that do have such facilities nearly two thirds still consider them to be under resourced.

In science half of respondents said the workbenches/lab tables in their school were inadequate, while around a quarter said the same about safety equipment. The science departments in secondary schools are reporting some of the worst conditions and lack of investment of any provision / department, with almost 45 per cent saying they do not have adequate scientific models and charts. Meanwhile 23 per cent of science teachers reported that the level of ICT facilities for their subject were affecting teaching and learning.

The picture for general ICT provision was brighter, with most schools reporting that their internet connection was reliable (though rural schools were less likely to say this), however access to devices was a problem. 29 per cent said that a lack of devices was a serious issue which limited their use of technology for teaching and learning.

Looking at the condition of the schools estate more generally, over 30 per cent of schools said their heating systems were poor or very poor, with some describing them as a possible safeguarding issue. Similarly just a fifth of schools reported having air conditioning which was adequate or better. A third of school playgrounds are also poor or very poor according to respondents, and fifth of school kitchens are described as poor or worse. The majority of educators believe the current level of investment in their school facilities will lead to significant future challenges.

Commenting on the report, BESA’s director general, Caroline Wright said: ‘This report demonstrates the need for urgent reinvestment in our school’s estates and facilities. At its current rate, the entire schools’ estate would take over 400 years to rebuild. This is simply not good enough when a school building is typically built to last around 70 years. We call on all major parties to commit to an urgent reinvestment in our schools estate and give teachers and pupils the world class facilities that they deserve.’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘We know from our members that more than a decade of underinvestment has left schools struggling with outdated and inadequate facilities, and that many are in a state of disrepair. As this report shows, this means schools having to teach in facilities that are not fit for purpose. We are concerned about the impact this has on children’s education – in particular for pupils with exams this year.’ Calling for more government investment, he added: ‘We urgently need a clear plan, backed with new money from the Treasury, to properly repair or replace buildings so they are fit for purpose. Our children deserve to be taught in modern, fit for purpose well-equipped buildings that are safe, comfortable and conducive to learning.’

Full report: https://tinyurl.com/3jb6j4f2

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