Good estate management for schools

Overseeing the estate

The policies, procedures and data you should have in your organisation to help you manage the estate.

You should manage the estate in the context of your organisation’s business planning processes. You should understand the various elements below and their impact on estate management.

Who should read this section

Read this section if you have responsibility for:

  • managing the estate
  • agreeing and implementing business planning processes

. 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 be informed and aware of the business planning processes. This includes:

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


The estate is an important resource. It should be specifically recognised in governance arrangements.

The purpose of governance in estate management is to provide:

  • strategic leadership
  • robust accountability for estates issues
  • oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance

It will help you make good and consistent decisions.

Further details about the core role, function and duties of governance are set out in the Department for Education’s (DfE’s): Governance handbook for academies, multi-academy trusts and maintained schools.

DfE’s guidance on multi-academy trust good practice and expectations for growth gives guidance on developing a successful trust, including:

  • advice on school governance and leadership
  • helping schools improve
  • financial sustainability and risk management

Importance of good governance

Strategic estate management is not just an activity for property professionals. It should be:

  • led by the board with support from executive leaders and school business professionals to develop understanding of estate issues
  • integrated with your other business and financial planning processes

Everyone has a role to play. Recognising estates in your governance arrangements will make sure that:

  • everyone is aware of their role and responsibilities
  • executive leaders are responsible for the estate
  • decisions reflect your visions and priorities
  • there’s appropriate challenge and transparency
  • property budgets are effectively managed
  • property services are coordinated to achieve value for money
  • the risks associated with the use and occupation of land and buildings are minimised

Without good estates governance, clear responsibilities and good communication there’s a risk that:

  • there is no accountability for the estate at board or executive leader level
  • property decision-making can become fragmented
  • operational activities can become uncoordinated
  • inefficiencies and poor investment decisions are made

Role of governing boards

The board is accountable for the performance of your organisation. As a governor or charity trustee, your role is to make sure that your organisation is being managed properly.

The board should ensure that it maintains oversight of the estate. This could be considered regularly in-depth by a relevant committee and in turn reported to the full board. You may find it helpful to designate a board member to have specific responsibility for the estate.

Your board should challenge your executive leaders to make sure they are:

  • keeping the estate safe and secure for everyone
  • aware of what investment is needed in the estate
  • planning for longer term needs as well as the short term
  • allocating resources in line with strategic priorities
  • making best use of available budgets
  • using land and buildings efficiently and driving value from the estate
  • getting best value through procurement
  • looking for opportunities to work with others to be more efficient

You need to ask the right questions. You can use the top 10 estate checks for boards to help you challenge your executive leaders and drive efficiencies from the estate.

Your governance arrangements

Your governance arrangements should cover the whole estate management function. This should include:

  • strategic functions – making sure that all decisions reflect the overall vision, priorities and financial sustainability
  • operational functions - making sure that property services are coordinated to give value for money, that budgets are well managed and risks are minimised

This applies regardless of:

  • the type of your organisation
  • the size of your organisation
  • how many properties make up the estate

Make sure it is clear who is responsible for what at a board and executive leadership level. This should state which governance functions are retained at board level and which are delegated.

For example

  • A large multi-academy trust (MAT) may have both centralised and localised governance arrangements although the MAT remains accountable

  • A school supported by a charitable trust (including schools with a religious character) will have governance arrangements reflecting the requirements of the trust deed

  • A maintained school may have governance arrangements involving the local authority

You should make sure there is clear separation between strategic non-executive oversight and operational executive leadership.

Some operational activities may be delegated to a local level. However legal duties placed on a board will remain with them, even if certain functions or responsibilities are delegated. You should document all delegations, making sure they are appropriately communicated and that accountability is clear.

Document your governance arrangements

You should document your governance arrangements. Doing this will:

  • make sure everyone knows what the estate-related governance arrangements are
  • make sure your arrangements are known across the whole organisation
  • set out important roles and responsibilities for strategic and operational estate management
  • set out what estate specific performance measures are being used
  • show how performance will be reported and who is responsible for this
  • identify strategic property policies

You should make sure that your governance arrangements are referred to and reflected in your asset management plan (AMP).

Find out more about what should be in your AMP.

Sharing your arrangements

You should share your arrangements within and outside your organisation.

How your governance arrangements are shared and communicated will vary depending on their complexity and the size of your organisation.

Good communication at all levels is essential to make sure everyone understands:

  • the arrangements
  • roles and responsibilities
  • reporting lines
  • working practices

This applies at an organisational and individual site level.

As well as the governance arrangements, you should share your school’s estate vision and strategy.

Share your AMP with everyone involved in, or affected by, operational estate management.

Consider how you’ll share:

  • any changes to your arrangements or strategic documents with existing staff
  • your arrangements with new staff

You may also choose to share some parts with other stakeholders. This could include:

  • other schools
  • potential partners
  • your local community
  • parents and carers

Skills and knowledge

You will need a range of skills and knowledge within the board and organisation as a whole.

Governing boards

Boards should include a range of skills, as set out in the governance handbook and competency framework.

For estates specifically, the required knowledge and skills tool sets out what is needed within organisations.

Boards should consider their role and the skills they require as part of this

Organisational capability

Managing the estate involves many strategic, operational and technical roles. If you do not already have the knowledge in your organisation to cover these roles you may consider:

  • training and supporting current staff to cover routine roles
  • employing external professionals
  • sharing skills and resources with other schools

When engaging professional support follow the appropriate procurement processes.

Find out more about how to procure professional services.

The required knowledge and skills tool may also help boards to assess whether schools have the estate expertise required. However, the tool is not aimed at school business professionals. Their skills are set out in ISBLs professional framework.

More information and resources about governance are available in the Information, training and tools section of this manual.

Budget and finance

Good estate management supports the effective management and use of financial resources. This should include both capital and revenue expenditure, which are often managed as separate funding strands. This will inform your decision making process.

Importance of budgeting and finance

With increasing pressures on all budgets, it’s important that you:

  • understand how all your resources are used
  • challenge yourself to use them more efficiently
  • get value for money from the estate

Doing this will help you get the right combination of costs and benefits, not necessarily the cheapest service or product.

Thinking about the estate strategically will help you do this by:

  • providing a framework to identify issues and recognise risks early
  • forecasting investment need in the short, medium and longer term
  • identifying capital budgeting requirements, enabling consideration alongside revenue budget planning
  • helping you sequence and prioritise works to maximise outcomes
  • coordinating efficient procurement of services

Responsibility for estate budgeting and finance

Accountability for financial performance sits at board level. It’s important that the budgetary process sits firmly within the strategic leadership of the board.

Budgeting and finance management is not the sole responsibility of the school business professional in their capacity as finance manager.

Budgeting for the strategic management of the estate is an integral part of the budget planning cycle. It should not be treated as a standalone item.

Budget management in schools can be varied and complex. The executive leader responsible for the estate should work with the school business professional to make sure the estate budget and financing issues are represented in the overall budget planning cycle.

This will draw on analysis of data, which you should present through your asset management plan.

Considerations for budgeting and finance

When agreeing the estate budgeting and finance arrangements you should consider the following areas.

Capital and revenue budgets

The operation of the estate will impact both capital and revenue budgets. Capital projects could include:

  • internal alterations
  • extensions or new buildings
  • invest to save schemes
  • improvement works to ensure the sustainability of the estate through asset change

Revenue costs are associated with the operational running of the estate, including facilities management costs.

You should know the full cost of occupying the estate. This can be a challenge if you have:

  • inconsistent budget recording

  • fragmented responsibilities and data recording

Understanding the financial implications of proposals as a whole supports:

  • better decision-making
  • delivery of best value for money

You should consider the revenue implications of any investment in the estate in the short, medium and long term.

Capital projects may have revenue implications that you need to consider in your decision making.

You should consider invest to save projects, which could reduce revenue expenditure in the future.

For example

  • Investing in new glazing or constructing a draught lobby could save energy costs
  • Replacing an aging roof could save ongoing and increasing maintenance costs

You should be aware if there is an opportunity cost of occupying your property. This is the value tied up in your asset that you may be able to release.

For example If your land and buildings have a high value for an alternative use, you could consider releasing that value by selling all or part and providing what you need in a more cost-effective way.


Prioritising works is important to make sure your budget is used to deliver best value for money overall. Taking a strategic approach identifies investment needs across the whole estate. This will help you to:

  • plan your budget
  • avoid unexpected budget pressures

Working this way makes sure that decisions on prioritisation are made in a consistent and transparent way.

Risk management

The budgeting process and prioritisation of funding should take account of risk management.

Whilst risk cannot be completely avoided, recognition of the risks and their impact should be a factor when prioritising expenditure.

As well as financial risks (both capital and revenue related), consideration should be given to:

  • risks around statutory compliance
  • educational delivery
  • strategic risk
  • reputational risk

Option appraisal

Consideration of significant capital investment options should include appraisal on a whole life basis.

Find out more about option appraisal and whole life considerations.

Determining value for money

When determining value for money from investment and the management of the estate, you should consider the:

  • potential to reduce revenue expenditure by investing in the estate - this could include invest to save projects
  • options to deliver savings through rationalising the estate - this could include disposing of surplus capacity, releasing costly assets or acquiring more efficient space, including the use of modular buildings. Find out more about strategic reviews.
  • potential to generate income through the estate - this could include letting parts of the estate for occasional community use, or longer term release of surplus space. Find out how tenure and land ownership. could impact your ability to do this.
  • options to procure services differently - this could include grouping all your requirements into a single contract or using frameworks for professional services. Find out more about procurement

Performance management of the estate

Performance management of the estate and benchmarking is the measurement and monitoring of property-related performance. This will help you to improve the efficiency of the estate.

Measuring the performance of the estate will help you understand:

  • how the property assets in the estate contribute to the overall performance of your organisation
  • how each individual asset in the estate is performing against technical criteria

Benchmarking is a way of using relative performance to learn from others in an effort to improve. This will include comparison with other organisations or industry standards, and comparison of individual property assets within the estate.

Importance of performance management of the estate

Accountability for financial performance sits at board level. Understanding the performance of the estate and using it to challenge and demonstrate value for money is an important element of accountability.

Performance management of the estate will:

  • enable you to monitor and evaluate how property assets are performing to meet the needs of your organisation
  • provide a reference point to support future strategies and value for money decisions
  • provide a mechanism for internal and for external benchmarking

Benchmarking is not a one off exercise. It can help:

  • lock your organisation into a cycle of continuous improvement
  • develop a culture where it is easier to question the norm and make changes

Who should be responsible

Responsibility for performance management of the estate should sit with a executive leader. They should also be responsible for reporting performance.

They should understand what the executive leadership team and the board want to know about the estate and identify performance measures accordingly. The actual collation and management of the data used to deliver performance reports is likely to be the responsibility of operational staff.

You should use standardised reporting formats where possible to enable better understanding of data needs and performance over time.

The executive leadership team may help identify other benchmarking organisations which may be willing partners. For schools with a religious character, this should be done in collaboration with the trustees of the school and the diocese.

What to consider

You should consider what you want to measure to help you:

  • manage the estate strategically
  • assess value for money

Do not make this too complicated. It’s more important to start the process rather than trying to make it too comprehensive from the start.

You should then make sure:

  • you identify appropriate performance criteria so that you can set targets
  • your targets are clearly linked to your strategic goals and the requirements of the trustees of the school
  • you choose measures which are useful to your school and organisation

You might want to limit this to 5 key measures. Having a small number of useful measures is preferable to having numerous measures that do not provide meaningful information.

Consider any of the following.


  • running costs – calculation of all property occupancy costs as a total cost per square metre or as a proportion of total school expenditure
  • capital projects – capital cost per square metre or pupil place, proportion of projects delivered to time/cost targets

Condition and maintenance

  • condition – categorisation against industry standard condition (A-D) and prioritisation (1-4) categories by percentage of estate in each category
  • maintenance – assessment of maintenance need per square metre, average spend per square metre, by planned to reactive proportion

Find out more about condition surveys.


  • space utilisation – assessment of the utilisation of space by reference to space (square metre) per pupil, the frequency of use and how the space is used.

Find guidelines for:

Environmental sustainability

  • energy consumption – calculation of energy consumption by reference to the area of the building
  • environmental impact – assessment of emissions per area of building


  • statutory compliance – measurement of the proportion of the estate which is compliant or non-compliant

Track your performance

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to measure you need to identify:

  • what data you will need
  • how you can gather the data
  • how you will analyse the data

Establish a baseline position. Without this, it is not possible to identify any changes in performance.

Use how you perform against targets to define priorities for works and estates activities.

Refine your performance measures over time as your approach to strategic estate management matures, and more data becomes available.

Collecting performance data

Collecting data can be time consuming and costly. The benefits of identified performance measures must justify the cost and effort of collating, analysing and reporting.

You should assess what data is already collected. You may be able to use this to start with and build on it over time.

Identify performance measures that meet the needs of your organisation. Be realistic about:

  • what data can be collected and analysed
  • whether this can be done in a timescale to enable meaningful action


Understanding your performance internally is only part of the picture.

Benchmarking with other bodies or organisations can help you identify areas for improvement. It’s only through external comparison that it is possible to determine how your organisation is performing in a wider context.

Benchmarking is only a guide. There may be valid reasons why some schools are at the lower or upper extremes of the data range. You should understand the reasons. You may not be in a position at the outset to benchmark externally. Begin once your estate performance management processes are embedded and more data is available.

You may want to identify potential benchmarking groups or partner organisations. You can:

  • find out what performance criteria they’re measuring
  • possibly use some of their findings to set your own targets

There may be existing localised, regional or national benchmarking groups.

You could consider contacting peer organisations and discuss the potential to share information for mutual benefit. You may need the consent of trustees before sharing information.

Some MATs use business intelligence dashboards to support their work.

For example EO Consulting has a dashboard that presents all types of condition, compliance and energy usage data so it can be:

  • appropriately aggregated
  • used to optimise return on capital investment decisions within estates and organisations

The Trust Network has case studies which provide further information.

More information and signposting to performance management tools for the estate is available in the information, training and tools section.

Data and data management

To help you manage the estate strategically, you should consider:

  • what data you need
  • how to hold and manage your data

Data and data management is an important part of estate management. Efficient management is dependent on the availability of reliable data in a format that allows meaningful interpretation.

Property asset data is only valuable if it’s:

  • current
  • correct
  • complete
  • consistent

Poor quality data can be misleading and creates risks in decision-making. Effective data management will identify all sources of data, and make sure it’s maintained.

In order to manage your property portfolio, you need to understand how the estate and each individual property is performing. What performance measures you use will determine what data you need.

The data you hold and manage about the estate must reflect the needs of your organisation and the trustees of the school.

Importance of data management

It’s important that you manage your data to make sure:

  • it’s accurate
  • it can be accessed in a format that suits the needs of your users

Different people may need to use the data for different reasons.

Managing your data helps you to:

  • make informed decisions and forward plan
  • develop the estate strategy and asset management plan
  • undertake strategic property reviews
  • evaluate and appraise different investment options
  • measure the performance of the estate
  • satisfy statutory and other external reporting and compliance requirements
  • monitor and assess how well you are implementing the estate strategy and asset management plan
  • effectively manage projects
  • fulfil your financial reporting requirements
  • fulfil the requirements of the trustees of the school

Collecting property data

Data will need to be collected from many sources. You may already hold data about the estate in different places and in different formats. Data may be:

  • knowledge held by individuals but not formally recorded
  • held in a number of formats in your existing business planning system, for example spreadsheets or paper documents
  • held in a coordinated specialist estate management system

It’s important that you designate responsibility for the collection and maintenance of property data. This minimises security, consistency and resilience risks associated with data management. Depending on the amount of data and how it’s held, responsibility could be given to a school business professional or to dedicated estates staff in larger MATs.

It’s the responsibility of the designated person or staff to ensure data requirements are understood, coordinated and sourced effectively.

If you’re being given data by technical advisers, you should make sure your contract specification sets out what format you want it in. It’s important to have a clear understanding of data requirements across your whole organisation.

Storing and managing data

Storing and managing data in one system may be easier, as it:

  • reduces the need to manage several systems
  • lowers the risk of data duplication and reporting errors

It’s not always necessary to buy or develop a complicated system for your data management. You may be able to store and manage data in a bespoke or locally developed system.

If you decide to buy a proprietary asset management system, you should consider whether you are paying for functions that you do not require.

It’s important to understand the needs of your organisation and the trustees of the school when making this decision.

Any data storage and management system you use should:

  • be able to manage all data types that you need for your organisation
  • provide data input control to ensure accuracy and consistency
  • be easy to use and provide support and training where required
  • allow many users to use it at the same time
  • be able to store and manage documents
  • be able to interface with other systems
  • allow data migration and data updating
  • provide reporting functions and be able to produce reports in different formats to suit your needs
  • provide a full audit process

What to record

You should hold certain core data fields to help you manage the estate. These include:

  • asset register – a register of all interests in your land and buildings
  • tenure – what legal interests you hold and the basis of occupation
  • building area – gross internal area for each building
  • property condition – condition survey data
  • statutory compliance – compliance records including health and safety records
  • sufficiency – net capacity and number on roll records
  • running costs – revenue, utilities, facilities management, insurance costs and so on

Other data that would help you includes:

  • geographical location plans
  • site area
  • number of buildings on each site
  • plans – a scaled building layout plan
  • number of floors in each building
  • energy efficiency – CO2 emissions and energy cost data
  • suitability – suitability survey assessments


You are likely to need to procure services to help you manage the estate. This could include procuring works/individual projects or procuring specialist technical advice.

Importance of procurement

Efficient procurement will help make sure that you:

  • get advice on the most appropriate and efficient procurement route
  • get best value for money
  • understand and follow procurement procedures to minimise risks of challenge

Mistakes in procurement processes can be costly and result in significant delays.

When procuring and managing works or services, you should make sure you follow robust procurement policies. You should be aware of, and adhere to, the procurement policies within your organisation.

When engaging a contractor, make sure that they:

  • comply with the terms and conditions of the contract
  • achieve the aims and objectives of the project - these should be defined in the scoping and specification of work and should generally be included in the contract
  • comply with statutory requirements and site access issues
  • deliver the completed project to schedule and within budget
  • work professionally, using safe working procedures to ensure that no harm can be done to staff, pupils, contractors or visitors
  • provide data in a prescribed format to help you manage the estate

Procuring specialist services

The different stages of any project will require and involve different skills. You should involve a number of people. This will include school representatives, technical advisers and, where necessary, fire officers and local authority planning officials.

Projects on a school estate can be complex, requiring the full integration of school business professionals, procurement and technical property professionals. It’s important that you understand the roles of everyone involved at the outset, making sure you procure the right skills at the right time.

Consider who will be involved with the core roles, including:

  • client (the appropriate school representative)
  • client advisers
  • project lead
  • architect/designer
  • building services engineer
  • civil and structural engineer
  • cost consultant
  • contract administrator
  • health and safety adviser
  • procurement adviser

Additional input may be required to help with information management, master planning, sustainability, landscaping, planning, fire engineering, external lighting, acoustics, interior design, catering or other specialist and support roles. Even on a small project, specialists might be required. Involving specialists early in the process can deliver efficiencies throughout the project.

You may need to liaise with local authority functions in the works stages of some projects. This will include planning or building control functions.

Procurement route and process

When procuring goods and services for your organisation, you should consider the following.


You may have the option to use local authority procurement arrangements regardless of your governance structure. These will include approved lists of contractors or frameworks that may have been built up over many years. These arrangements may have pre-approved:

  • pricing structures
  • specifications
  • compliance with legal requirements and accepted industry standards

If such arrangements are not available or inappropriate, you may refer to the guidance and advice on procurement.

You may also want to consider buying goods or services using the:

The ESFA has already delivered a number of school projects using modular buildings and have now procured three different modular frameworks worth £500m to build further schools using this method. These include frameworks for:

  • new build primary schools

  • primary school block replacements

  • secondary schools

Contact the ESFA at to find out more about the ESFA work on Modern Methods of Construction and these frameworks.

Schools with a religious character should refer to the diocesan procurement procedures.

Working with other organisations

You may want to consider working together with other organisations and schools.

This could be in geographical clusters.

You could review all the annual plans and priorities together. Combining programmes of work could secure better value for money.


You should ensure your procurement and tender documentation is comprehensive at the outset. This will be important in managing the contract. Your documentation should include:

  • a detailed scope of works
  • specifications
  • method statements
  • health and safety elements
  • a programme of work
  • a schedule of cost

Making payments

You may need to make staged payments for some works. The methodology for quantifying these should be set out in the procurement documentation. This may need help from qualified technical advisers or property professionals.

Sign-off process

You should consider the sign-off process as part of procurement. This will result in acceptance of the completed works. In some instances, you may need to use qualified professionals to give assurance.

Further guidance in respect to procurement and managing contractors is set out in the DfE’s guidance and advice on procurement.

Emergency Planning

Continuity planning

Undertaking condition surveys, inspections and regular maintenance should help you identify issues that need to be addressed, before they cause an emergency situation.

You may nevertheless face a number of scenarios that can lead to a premises-related emergency. Some of these can lead to partial or full closure of your buildings.

Your continuity plans should cover premises related emergencies, for example the relocation of pupils to alternative sites.

Guidance and practical management tools are available for emergency and continuity planning.

Dealing with emergencies

In the event of a premises related emergency, you should:

  • take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of pupils, staff and visitors
  • contact the necessary statutory bodies (for example, fire services and Health and the Safety Executive (HSE)) to ensure the measures being taken are appropriate and sufficient
  • contact your organisation (including trustees of the school and the diocese) and advise them of the situation and measures being taken, and discuss support options
  • contact the insurers and check insurance arrangements – some situations will be covered and can include the provision of temporary accommodation
  • seek professional advice on immediate and longer term action required to repair the affected area where appropriate

Consider the legislative and procedural requirements if specific hazards are involved, including:

  • asbestos disturbance or damage
  • a Legionella outbreak

Communicate with parents, carers and other stakeholders, making sure:

  • they remain informed but are not unduly alarmed
  • that it is clear the school is taking all necessary and appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of pupils, staff and visitors – this will also inform any media queries

Immediately contact the emergency services in emergencies such as fire or flood. Where there is deemed to be a wider environmental risk, contact the local authority and residents near the school (who may also be at risk).

In the event of a flood or severe weather related emergency schools should report the emergency to and contact the DfE helpline on 0370 000 2288.

Covering the cost of repairs

Where the cost of repairs and recovery are significant and not covered by insurance or ESFA risk protection arrangements, maintained and voluntary-aided schools should discuss courses of action with their local authority.

Academies should consider the use of existing capital funds and reserves. In exceptional circumstances academy trusts may apply to ESFA for emergency funding.

Academies should contact the Department in the first instance. If you are part of a MAT that receives a formulaic school condition allocation you are not eligible to apply for Condition Improvement Funding (CIF) for emergencies.