Good estate management for schools

Maintaining the estate

You should maintain the estate to make sure it is safe, warm and dry for all users.

The estate buildings are an important and valuable long-term asset. They may also be open to the public as community facilities.

You should plan for and maintain the buildings to make sure they are:

  • safe
  • warm
  • weatherproof
  • provide a suitable teaching and learning environment

Who should read this section

Read this section if you have responsibility for day-to-day maintenance of the estate. This includes:

  • executive leaders
  • local authorities
  • diocesan authorities and other religious authorities and bodies
  • school business professionals

If you have an oversight role, you need to understand how the estate is maintained and to be assured that the appropriate actions are carried out. This includes:

  • boards
  • charity trustees of academies and academy trusts
  • trustees of schools

Importance of maintenance planning

Increasing pressure on resources can lead to cuts in your maintenance budget. An evidence-based maintenance plan can help you understand the impact of any budget reductions.

Having clear stewardship and maintenance regimes for all buildings will ensure they remain safe environments for teaching and learning and that the value of the asset is protected.

Poor or irregular maintenance of school buildings can result in:

  • adverse effects on the provision of education
  • closure of your buildings
  • invalidation of your insurance
  • poor value for money
  • unnecessary expenditure to rectify problems which could have been avoided
  • shorter building life
  • risks to the health, safety and welfare of your building users
  • legal claims
  • non-compliance with regulations

You can reduce these risks by having an effective maintenance regime.

Maintenance types

Maintenance of land and buildings is often categorised as either planned preventative maintenance (PPM) or reactive maintenance.

You should consider the balance between PPM and reactive maintenance. It is recognised good practice to allocate PPM and reactive maintenance budgets in the region of a 70:30 ratio (CIPFA).

Planned preventative maintenance (PPM)

PPM includes works or activities that are undertaken:

  • before something fails
  • to prevent or stop building condition or equipment breakdowns
  • to fulfil a legal duty

Reactive maintenance

Reactive maintenance covers works or activities that are not planned or cyclical. They will be undertaken because of:

  • unexpected failure of a component
  • vandalism
  • accidental damage

Urgent health and safety works are also considered reactive maintenance.

Information needed for maintenance planning

The estate might include buildings of different ages and construction types. These will all have different requirements and challenges for undertaking maintenance and repairs.

If a building is of historic interest and/or is listed in a conservation area there may be more stringent controls when carrying out maintenance work, which may require permission.

Accurate data about the condition of buildings is the starting point for longer-term maintenance planning. You’ll need a variety of information about the estate, including:

  • a plan of the buildings with useful information such as fire safety measures, location of hydrants, location of utility meters and incoming services
  • a plan of the site with utilities information such as mains drainage, stopcocks, cabling and isolation points
  • a breakdown of areas by use
  • an inventory of important components and their life expectancy, such as boilers and pipework
  • up-to-date statutory compliance records
  • a schedule of maintenance contracts such as annual portable appliance testing (PAT), gas safety, boiler maintenance and fire measures
  • building condition surveys (if available)
  • asbestos management survey and plan
  • contacts for regular building works contractors and property services consultants

This information may already be held by your organisation. For example, for schools with a religious character, information may be held by the trustees of the school or the relevant Church of England or Catholic diocese.

Condition surveys

What is a condition survey

Condition relates to the physical condition of buildings in the estate. This is determined by undertaking condition surveys.

Condition surveys are normally:

  • non-intrusive surveys, carried out by suitably qualified professionals
  • cover 5-year planning periods for the purpose of strategic estate management

Why you need a condition survey

Condition surveys will help you to:

  • identify what work is needed to maintain the estate
  • consider how much works might cost
  • prioritise work within available funds
  • understand if the nature of the buildings change

This information will help you prepare a maintenance programme, which reflects potential future capital investment.

Academy trusts, dioceses or local authorities may carry out condition surveys on behalf of their schools and prepare a long-term maintenance programme. You should check if this has been done.

What’s included

The condition survey should identify specific building condition issues, deficiencies and maintenance requirements, including, but not limited to:

  • structural
  • roofs
  • building fabric
  • windows and doors
  • mechanical and electrical
  • asbestos
  • utilities
  • sewage and drainage
  • fire safety and security
  • site layout

It should also provide an estimated cost for repair or replacement.

Condition surveys should identify critical elements that may require further investigation. This would include possible structural problems and health and safety risks.

Any condition and maintenance issues that are identified should be prioritised using condition grading and prioritisation ratings, as per industry standard.

Condition is generally categorised as:

  • A - good, performing as intended and operating efficiently
  • B - satisfactory, performing as intended but exhibiting minor deterioration
  • C - poor, exhibiting major defects and/or not operating as intended
  • D - bad, life expired and/or serious risk of failure

Priority is generally categorised as:

  • 1 - urgent, immediate or 1 year remedial action required - work that will prevent immediate closure of premises and/or address an immediate high risk to the health and safety of the occupants and/or remedy a serious breach of legislation
  • 2 - essential, 1 to 2 year remedial action required - work that will prevent serious deterioration of the building fabric or services and/or address a medium risk to the health and safety of the occupants and/or remedy a less serious breach of legislation
  • 3 - desirable, 3 to 5 year remedial action required - work that will prevent deterioration of the building fabric or services and/or address a low risk to the health and safety of the occupants and/or remedy a minor breach of legislation
  • 4 - long term, outside of a 5-year planning period - work that will prevent deterioration of the building fabric or services

When to survey

Consider how frequently buildings should be surveyed. This will depend on the condition, age and the type of buildings.

Identify critical elements that need to be inspected on a regular basis to minimise:

  • the impact on school accessibility
  • risk of closure of all or part of the estate

If you need to undertake any refurbishment work in a building that contains asbestos, you may need to commission a refurbishment and demolition survey. Read the Asbestos management in schools guidance.

Maintenance planning

Planned and prioritised maintenance is an important part of strategic estate management. To support this you should have:

  • an overall maintenance plan for the estate
  • a plan for day-to-day planned maintenance

These will help you develop an estate strategy and asset management plan (AMP).

As part of your planning, you should consider the cost-benefit of replacing items that incur significant and ongoing maintenance costs.

Find out more about producing an estate strategy and an asset management plan.

What to include

Your maintenance plan may cover a 5-year period, but should schedule a list of works to be undertaken in each year. These should be based on the current condition of the buildings, identified from condition surveys.

Identify the main priorities for the estate, including:

  • regular planned preventive maintenance works (PPM)
  • any planned capital or investment projects, such as window replacement

These works can be presented within your estate development plan, if you have one.

Prioritising works

Prioritise works in your maintenance plan, taking account of:

  • any legal duties (including ensuring compliance with legislation)
  • works which may impact health, safety or security
  • works impacting the envelope of the building, electrical or mechanical services (heating)
  • condition grading indicating the likelihood of failure
  • risk assessment, including impact of element failure and the consequences of not addressing the need
  • available resources

When planning longer-term works, you should take account of the findings of regular maintenance cycles. This allows you to plan and budget effectively, minimising the risk of failure.

For example An annual maintenance inspection of a boiler may identify potential problems so that it will need to be replaced earlier than previously identified.

Timing works

Consider the timing for implementation of each project, as there could be cost implications.

For example Some contractors may charge premiums to carry out works during busy periods, such as summer holidays.

To save costs, some projects may be completed during term time, when contractors may be less busy.

Some projects, for reasons of health and safety, may only be reasonably completed when the site is not in full use.

For example It may be appropriate to undertake non-urgent work on asbestos-containing materials outside of term time.

Preventing disruption

A clear plan for managing any works will help to minimise risk and disruption to the running of your school premises.

All schools are different and will not have the same maintenance requirements.

For example Primary schools are unlikely to have fume cupboards or technical workshops to maintain.

You should consider what maintenance checks and testing regimes are required at your school. If in doubt, you should seek professional advice.

You may find it helpful to refer to examples provided in the health and safety section of this manual.

In addition to maintenance checks on building services, you may need to consider other activities such as:

  • food hygiene and catering requirements
  • maintenance of practical lesson machinery and equipment
  • kiln servicing
  • general health, safety and security management
  • safety signage
  • maintenance of CCTV and security equipment

Procuring and managing maintenance works

Maintenance work will include relatively minor works as well as larger projects.

You may have responsibilities under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM). This will depend on the type, scale and complexity of the works.

Further information is available on estate projects.

Planning for smaller jobs should be simple, short and proportionate to the risks.

If you need to procure specialist expertise to carry out some of your maintenance work, you should:

  • follow agreed procurement policies
  • be aware of different procurement options
  • specify your requirements clearly
  • manage your contracts well

You may wish to enter an arrangement with a professional technical advisor or property consultant. They will be able to advise you independently on building fabric and building services issues.

This may be advisable if you:

  • are considering maintenance projects such as a capital repair or replacement based on comprehensive condition surveys
  • need an independent assessment of repair or replacement works recommended by maintenance contractors
  • need an independent audit of the performance of a maintenance contractor
  • have concerns about the safety of systems or the condition of buildings or services – this may include structural concerns such as cracking in walls or asbestos
  • need accurate project cost plans for budgeting, bidding for funds, procurement of maintenance or works contracts, project or contract management services

If you do seek external advice, you should be aware of the possible application of procurement rules. This will depend on the value of the consultancy services. You may want to consider the use of frameworks to procure professional services.

Find out more about procuring and managing works.

Before undertaking any maintenance work, you should follow some basic steps.

Appoint competent representatives to manage and advise on contractor activities

Your representatives should:

  • have sufficient health and safety knowledge for the planned work
  • be available throughout the duration of the contractor’s activities

Appoint a competent contractor

Your contractor should:

  • be experienced in the type of work you are planning
  • have liability insurance that reflects the risk involved

Meet with the contractor and agree the works

You should ask your contractor to explain how they will manage the risks they will create.

Your contractor should:

  • be able to explain the steps they will take, the risks at each step and the measures to control the risks
  • produce documents that are specific to your site and work activity – this should include a site and task specific risk assessment and method statement

Share information about your estate

You have a duty under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) to provide contractors with relevant information about your estate, for example the asbestos register. This will enable work to be undertaken safely without risks to the:

  • contractor’s health
  • health and safety of others

Agree the site setup

You should agree with the contractor how the site should be set up. Any changes should be communicated, considered and agreed before being implemented.

Where a proposed change may increase risk, you should challenge this and get assurances that the risks are to be actively managed.

Issue a work permit

You may need to issue a work permit to authorise works to take place. This could relate to works with specific risks such as hot works.

Read information about work permits:

Agree supervision and communication

Your contractor should:

  • explain how their work activities will be effectively supervised
  • meet with you on a regular basis to discuss progress and any issues as they arise

Manage the contract

Once the works commence, the person appointed to administer the contract should make sure that it is well managed. They should make sure that the terms of the contract are met, or any variations are formally agreed. This will help:

  • reduce or prevent the risk of errors, including over-charging
  • reduce the impact of identified risks thereby ensuring defined outcomes
  • deliver the works and achieve value for money
  • reduce the risk of contractual disputes
  • improve the likelihood of implementing contractual performance incentives
  • increase opportunities to generate lessons learned to promote continuous improvements

Health and safety law and maintenance

You will need to be aware of health and safety issues when you manage and maintain land and buildings.

The safety of all users of the estate, including contractors is very important and you need to understand what your responsibilities are.

This is a complex area and you should refer to specialist guidance and if necessary seek independent professional advice.

Further guidance is available in the health and safety section.

Statutory examination and inspection, testing and maintenance

You will need to inspect and test your buildings, plant and equipment as part of your maintenance regime.

Advice on recommended testing frequencies is available in the safety section of this manual.

If in doubt, you should seek independent professional advice.

You should maintain certificates and details of all statutory examinations, testing and remedial work as detailed within the safety section of this guidance.

Arranging inspection services

You may have contractual arrangements in place which provide technical advice or procure maintenance works on your behalf. These could be in the form of a service level agreement with your local authority, or a contract with other service providers. This is often in place for statutory inspection and testing.

In schools that are subject to a private finance initiative (PFI) arrangement, the PFI provider will normally have contractual responsibility for:

  • repairs and maintenance
  • statutory inspection and testing

Where you have no formal arrangements in place, you are advised to use organisations or contractors who are recognised by an appropriate industry standards body. You should make sure they have been vetted for:

  • technical competence
  • financial probity

Local authorities and other responsible bodies will often hold a list of such contractors. You also need to be aware of relevant procurement legislation. In some cases an insurance company might provide the inspection service. The Department for Education (DfE) has provided a route to the commercial insurance market via the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

Academies that are covered by the departments risk protection arrangement for academy trusts can contact Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC).

Certification and information you need to hold

The certification and information you should hold for the estate will vary depending on the specific construction type and building services installed.

There are some major items of fabric, plant and equipment likely to be present in most schools, including:

  • air conditioning systems
  • asbestos
  • boilers (and other gas installations and equipment)
  • fire escape and safety
  • electrical fixed wiring and equipment
  • lifts
  • local exhaust ventilation (LEV) extraction systems (kitchen extract)
  • water systems
  • gym equipment

For details on certification and information you should hold for these and other items, you should refer to the health and safety section.

Site security

Staff and pupils need to be able to work and learn in a safe and secure environment.

You can get a balanced overview of risks by carrying out a security survey and risk assessment. This should include the environmental and building factors which contribute to security.

Maintenance and inspection activities should cover any security arrangements you have in place. Security arrangements may vary to reflect the differing nature of sites and buildings. You will need to consider what is appropriate for your organisation, but could include:

  • perimeter fencing and landscaping
  • security lighting
  • alarm systems
  • security surveillance systems
  • access control
  • compliance with DBS clearance requirements

Occupying leasehold and shared premises

You may have additional responsibilities if you:

  • occupy leasehold premises
  • share your premises

If you occupy leasehold premises

If you lease land or buildings you may have a maintenance obligation. Any obligations or responsibilities will usually be set out in your lease agreement.

You may not be responsible for maintaining all of the land or buildings. You should be clear about who is legally responsible for what. You may need to obtain the landlord’s consent before undertaking any works.

The terms of a lease do not absolve you of any legal duties imposed on you, including those under health and safety legislation or as an occupier of premises.

You should refer to specialist guidance and if necessary seek independent professional advice.

If you occupy shared premises

If you share the building with other users, you may be under a legal duty to co-operate and co-ordinate with other users and occupiers of the building. For example, Regulation 11 of the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999 imposes a duty of cooperation and coordination between employers sharing a workplace.

Where a building is occupied by more than one user, then it’s important that the results of any risk assessments should be shared with other occupiers of the premises where relevant. This would include risk assessments covering fire safety, the control of vehicle movements, asbestos etc.

Even if there is no direct control over common areas of the premises, the employer needs to ensure that access and egress through these areas is safe for employees, visitors and contractors.

Common areas of premises are those that are used by tenants (or occupiers) but are not controlled by them. Common areas may include:

  • car parks
  • access routes
  • internal staircases
  • corridors
  • lifts

Where there are shared services, the tenant should take reasonable steps to ensure that they are maintained in a safe condition and without risks to the health of employees and visitors. This applies even where the tenant does not have any control over these services. Shared services could include:

  • electrical installation
  • gas supply
  • fire safety systems

Schools with a religious character

Most schools with a religious character (including academies) do not own the buildings or the land they’re built on.

The freehold title is often held by the trustees of the school. By occupying the land a school or academy agrees to follow the terms of the trust deed.

In these cases, consent is required from the trustees of the school in relation to any dealings with the land. This may include approval:

  • to carry out any surveys of the property
  • for any works to the land and buildings
  • for all substantial decisions on the use of the site

You may need to seek further advice if you are not sure of the terms of the trust.