There are different aspects to maintaining a school site: from developing your buildings to keep pace with advances in technology, and implementing energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives; to statutory premise compliance activities and making your buildings work more efficiently.
An additional challenge is the amount of time during the year that you will have access to your premises to make these changes and carry out your maintenance activities. The answer in addressing these challenges lies in analysing how your school site needs to operate, and then creating a facilities management programme to achieve it.
“Does your school have sufficient plug sockets for all the electronic devices now in use?”
The first step is to identify your starting point in each of these areas, and to do so it’s helpful to have the following information about your premises to hand:
- Building plans showing the location of utilities, services, drainage, cabling etc
- Information about any buildings which are listed or are located in a conservation area
- Building condition surveys
- An inventory of important building components and their life expectancy, e.g., boilers
- Statutory compliance records such as risk assessments for fire, asbestos and Legionella
- A map showing the usage of each room or area
Next you need to identify your future aims and objectives before drawing up a roadmap on how to achieve them.
For example, does your school have sufficient plug sockets for all the electronic devices now in use? If not, how will the age and look of your building impact upon how you address this issue?
It’s worth doing some research into this area to see what new products are available and how these can help you to solve such problems. For instance, it’s now possible to buy outdoor benches made of a composite material where you can plug in your phone charger and recharge your phone whilst sitting in the sun. This ticks both the sustainability and energy efficiency boxes.
“Do you have historic light fittings that could be reconditioned and reused?”
If one of your aims is to reduce your school’s energy consumption, then the installation of LED lighting is one of the most cost-effective ways of achieving this. The design of LED lighting will need to take account of your building’s internal layout and any historic interior decoration.
Do you have historic light fittings that could be reconditioned and reused? Or can wireless switching be used to avoid intrusive works to the internal fabric of your building? Less visible energy efficiency initiatives are the lagging of heating pipes or replacing roof insulation, to reduce the amount of heat being lost.
No matter the size or age of your school premises, all schools need to comply with legislation and government standards for premises maintenance. Guidance can be found in the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) documents The Independent School Standards and Advice on Standards for School Premises.
“Research and planning are key.”
In order to carry out these activities in the most efficient and effective way, it’s important to have an annual maintenance plan which considers what needs to be done, when and by whom. Some activities are required by law, such as the inspection of firefighting equipment, and others may be cosmetic but still important, such as regular redecorating.
You will also need to identify what activities must be carried out by a suitably qualified contractor, and which can be done in-house. Having drawn up a list of what maintenance activities are required, the final step is to timetable when each activity can be carried out, and to ensure that you have booked contractors up to four months in advance, to ensure their availability.
Remember: whatever aspect to maintaining your school site you’re considering – research and planning are key.
Jo Marchant is head of estates at a multi-academy trust and has worked in school business leadership and management for the past 14 years. Her new book, The School Premises Handbook, published by John Catt Educational, is the first comprehensive guide to building maintenance, legislation and compliance.