What does good school estate management look like?

Drawing on a seminar at ISBL’s 2019 conference by Tim Reade, head of property advisory services at CIPFA, we discuss why you need to examine your team and its efficiencies before taking on an estate management overhaul

Effective management of the school estate is a vital part of school business leadership. The SBP will, generally, be the person in charge of what goes on at the school regarding the management of the site, so it’s important to know what this entails. In 2018 the government released its Good estate management for schools manual which contains information on overseeing the estate, health and safety, maintenance, energy and water management, plus other tools. While this is incredibly useful, it’s also important to consider how to train the rest of the school leadership team on school estate management, as it can’t all be undertaken by one person.
The Academies Act 2010 gave schools greater autonomy in relation to the management and delivery of their estates and infrastructure outputs, meaning it’s no longer the responsibility of local authorities. While this is great news for schools wanting more independence, it opens up a whole new realm of potential issues. According to Tim Reade, these issues fall into two categories: competency (due to lack of skills or knowledge) and culture.
The key concerns Tim highlighted include:

  • the legal requirements regarding health and safety;
  • training and recognition of the role;
  • clear delineation of responsibilities for the SBP in relation to estates and infrastructure;
  • procurement processes;
  • best practice.

The best case scenario, if your estate management is done well, is that the school remains safe, successful, financially sustainable, efficient and an appealing place for parents to send their children to. However, the risks of bad estate management include:

  • inefficient use of resources, created by and/or leading to, poor investment decisions;
  • lack of maintenance;
  • risk to all building users, including pupils and visitors;
  • disruption to the running of the school;
  • impact on morale, staff retention and pupil numbers.

Do you have the skills required?
The first step is to address what your school may be lacking, and in what areas. How can you address these? You must:

  • identify and defined the various roles within the school environment;
  • identify their interaction with the specific property;
  • identify their key competencies;
  • map competency levels to identified roles.

Do you need to:

  • Train existing staff up to the required competency?
  • Recruit new staff?
  • Share resources with other schools or trusts?
  • Bring in external expertise?

What constitutes a ‘competent’ person? They require:

  • a core knowledge of the topic;
  • sufficient training;
  • experience to apply that training;
  • the personal qualities required to undertake functions effectively.

When you know whether or not you have the right people, it’s time to refer back to the government’s manual on estate management for guidance. Trying to implement an estate management plan without first examining your team and what they can do to streamline the process is likely to slow the entire operation down.
So, make sure you know who you have, what they can bring to the table and their skill level before anything else.
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