Good estate management for schools

Strategic estate management

Having a strategic approach with the right plans and documents in place will make sure the estate supports your education needs and goals.

An estate includes land and buildings. Strategic estate management is what you do to make sure it supports your education needs and goals.

It’s most effective when:

  • it involves the whole organisation
  • it’s coordinated and integrated with your business planning processes

You may also have obligations for the upkeep and maintenance of the estate to accord with the requirements of your basis of occupation.

For example Schools supported by a charitable foundation must meet the foundation’s objectives. This includes schools with a religious character. The objectives could be reflected in the:

  • trust deed
  • articles of association in an academy
  • Instrument of Government in a maintained school

Who should read this section

Read this section if you have responsibility for managing the estate. This includes:

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

This section may also be of interest to those with oversight responsibilities, including:

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

If you are unsure about your role in the strategic planning process, you should ask your immediate manager.

You may not have the authority to make strategic decisions. This will depend on your organisation type. If you’re:

  • a community or voluntary-controlled school, you should check with your local authority
  • an academy, you should check with your academy trust
  • a school with a religious character, you should check with the trustees of the school, diocese or relevant diocesan board
  • a voluntary-aided school, you should check with the trustees of the school, diocese or relevant diocesan board

What is strategic estate management

You can manage the estate strategically whatever your organistion type or size of the estate. This includes single stand-alone schools, multi-academy trusts (MATs), local authorities and schools with a religious character.

Strategic estate management will help you to:

  • make decisions supported by evidence
  • use your resources efficiently
  • maximise the estate’s value

Many factors will influence how you manage the estate, including:

  • the size, location, ages and types of buildings and land in the estate
  • what information you hold about the estate
  • the maturity of your organisation and your experience in estate matters
  • land tenure and constraints
  • area based considerations of the need for places/spare capacity in the system

How you manage the estate will vary to reflect these differences and how you are governed.

For example In a larger MAT, you need to take a strategic and long-term view of investment and expenditure across the whole estate. However, each school is different so you should also allow for local autonomy in the way the strategy is delivered.

Any investment in the estate should be based on evidence that it addresses an educational need. This will make sure that all decisions are informed, transparent and consistent.

How to manage your estate strategically

Your strategic management of the estate should be linked to your school’s business planning.

To manage the estate strategically you should:

  • understand what you need to do with the estate to meet your educational (or other) goals
  • set up good governance arrangements
  • assign responsibilities across the estate
  • agree an implementation plan
  • review and track your performance

Meeting educational goals

You should understand how the estate can support your educational goals and vision. This will make sure you are aware of:

  • any shortfalls or surplus provision in your schools and in the wider area - assessed through an evidence-based identification of need
  • what you need to spend on the estate to meet your needs - reflecting an assessment of condition and what is needed to make it safe
  • what changes you need to make to the estate, and when – reflecting an assessment of any works required and how these need to be prioritised

Schools with a religious character and those supported by a charitable foundation must make sure that:

  • the goals of the school meet the requirements of their foundation
  • they meet their obligations to the trustees of the school, in relation to the maintenance and upkeep of the land and buildings

Governance arrangements

You should have good governance arrangements in place. These will make sure that:

  • the estate is recognised and managed as a strategic resource
  • there’s board and executive leader responsibility for the estate
  • all estate related roles and responsibilities are defined and understood

There may be specific additional governance expectations or arrangements put in place for particular organisations, such as diocesan authorities, academy sponsors or MATs.

For example

The board of a Catholic school (including academies) occupies and conducts the school on behalf of the trustees of the school, under the supervision of the diocesan bishop. Ultimately, any decisions relating to the land and buildings rest with the trustees of the school, unless this has been delegated to the board/academy trust by the trustees.

A MAT board will be responsible and accountable for all the academies within the trust, but it could delegate some decisions to local governing bodies or other committees.

In a maintained school, boards and local authorities are required to have regard to statutory guidance on the discharge of their functions.

Further guidance can be found in overseeing the estate.

Assigning responsibilities

You should be clear about who is involved in the strategic planning process in your organisation. You should define the accountabilities, responsibilities and roles at the different levels.

You could list the different estates activities, then set out where responsibility sits across the different levels of hierarchy in your organisation for each activity. This could include the need to obtain consents within the organisation in the decision-making process.

The hierarchy will depend on your organisation type. This could include:

  • charity trustees
  • trustees of the school
  • executive leaders
  • local governing board
  • head teacher/principal
  • local authority

You could define responsibility in different ways. Consider using terms such as:

  • accountable – those who would be ultimately answerable if the task was not completed correctly or thoroughly. They would be the ones who would delegate the work to those who would be responsible
  • responsible – those who would be responsible for the task and ensuring that it’s done
  • support – those who would provide the resource to those responsible to help complete the task
  • consulted – those who would provide input and an opinion, and be engaged in the process
  • informed – those who would be kept up to date with the progress of the task


You should plan and coordinate all estate related activities. These should form part of your asset management plan (AMP) based on an analysis of need and data to make sure that:

  • all works and projects are prioritised to meet your safety, educational and other goals
  • funding sources, budget availability and constraints are recognised
  • opportunities for capital and revenue savings are maximised
  • you minimise disruption to your school operation

Reviewing and tracking performance

You should review and track the performance of the estate. Doing this will make sure that:

  • executive leaders recognise the importance of measuring the performance of the estate – for example knowing what the estate costs to run, what condition it is in and how much needs to be spent to make it safe
  • implications of poor performance are recognised – for example knowing that you are spending more than you need to, that you have more space than you need and could use it more efficiently, or that there is a safety risk to users
  • options for improvement are considered – for example whether to refurbish an existing building or build a new one, whether to repair or replace a boiler, or whether to rationalise the estate
  • you get value for money from any expenditure on the estate - for example by changing energy supplier, procuring capital works through frameworks or investing to make revenue savings
  • you can compare your performance with others – for example you can see if your running costs are higher than others, understand the reasons and how to make improvements

Why manage the estate strategically

Good strategic estate management can deliver both financial and non-financial benefits. It will help your school to be:

  • safe - poorly maintained schools are likely to be more hazardous
  • successful - well-designed facilities can be linked to levels of attainment
  • financially sustainable - an effectively managed estate will minimise surplus space and revenue costs, optimise revenue generation, prioritise investment and maintain asset value
  • efficient - planned repairs and maintenance can minimise emergency works, prevent failures and loss of facilities, and save money
  • appealing – a well-maintained school will help create a positive impression, and attract pupils and staff

Poor estate management can lead to:

  • inefficient use of resources and poor investment decisions
  • buildings not being maintained
  • risks to the safety of building users
  • teaching areas being taking out of service
  • disruption to the day-to-day running of your school

It can also affect morale, staff retention, recruitment and pupil numbers.

What strategic plans do I need

You will need the right plans to link the estate with your educational vision. You should have an:

  • estate vision
  • estate strategy
  • asset management plan

You may also need an estate development plan and a strategic review process.

Doing this will make sure:

  • the estate is seen and managed as a strategic resource
  • planning is encouraged on a medium to long-term basis (3 to 5 years or longer)
  • both capital and revenue implications are considered
  • both financial and non-financial matters are considered
  • you take a coordinated and consistent approach
  • operational estates activities use resources effectively

Estate vision

The estate vision should be a high-level statement aligned with your educational vision. It will take account of your educational and local community needs. It provides the direction for the estate, and sets out what needs to happen in the estate in the medium to long-term.

It will make sure:

  • that the estate can meet your organisation’s current and future education needs
  • there’s long-term provision of suitable school places in your area
  • that school places reflect the need for choice and diversity

In schools supported by a charitable trust, the estate vision must align with the trustees of the school’s educational vision. In schools with a religious character, it must also align with the vision of the diocesan bishop/diocesan board of education

The importance of the estate vision

The estate vision will give clear direction and inform decision-making.

Without it there’s a risk that decisions:

  • are made in isolation
  • don’t support the school’s (or the trustees of the school’s) educational vision
  • will waste resources

Who should produce the estate vision

An executive leader responsible for the estate should produce the vision. The process is not an issue just for the property or school business professional. They should work with relevant stakeholders, including:

  • the local authority
  • other education providers
  • community groups

The estate vision should be formally approved by the board as part of business planning. In schools with a religious character, this will be the trustees of the school and the relevant Church of England or Catholic diocese.

What should be in an estate vision

The estate vision does not need to be complex or lengthy.

There is no prescribed format. It should meet your needs and be written in a way that:

  • fits with your other strategic documents
  • meets the requirements of the trustees of the school

Make sure you show how the important elements of the educational vision will be achieved through the estate.

For example If your educational vision includes to:

  • increase places to address rising demand within the local area in the next 3 years
  • ensure the safety and security of all school users and visitors
  • develop a specialisation such as sports provision in a specified time period

Your estate vision may be to:

  • provide the extra space to meet the number of new places needed locally in the next 3 years
  • ensure all buildings on the estate provide safe and fit for purpose accommodation
  • provide the necessary space and facilities to develop the required specialism

Your estate vision should not detail how the vision is achieved. That should be in the estate strategy.

You should review the document alongside your educational vision. This will make sure it reflects any changes in educational priorities.

Estate strategy

An estate strategy sets out what you need to do with the estate to achieve the estate vision. It’s a 3 to 5 year medium to long-term strategy and will:

  • help you understand what you need from the estate
  • set out potential options to achieve your needs
  • identify issues that will need further consideration
  • provide a framework for property-related decision-making

You may identify a range of potential options to achieve the strategic aims. The estate strategy will not analyse the options in detail, but you must make sure that the options you choose are realistic and achievable. The options identified should be considered in detail at a later stage, through a formal option appraisal process.

The importance of an estate strategy

Your estate strategy will help you coordinate all your property-related activities and make sure that they relate to the estate vision. This will focus the short-term and day-to-day activities on what you are trying to achieve.

Make sure you identify, assess and address any impact of property-related activities. Individual solutions and projects are often linked. Without a strategy for the estate as a whole there’s a risk of:

  • wasting resources through duplication or redressing the outcome of actions
  • conflicting with other strategic aims

You should record any risks that may arise if works are not strategically planned. This will allow you to manage and mitigate risks, and prioritise work.

Who should produce the estate strategy

An executive leader responsible for the estate should produce your estate strategy. The process is not an issue just for the property or school business professional.

They will need input from:

  • members of the executive leadership team
  • charity trustees
  • trustees of the school
  • school business professionals or specialists
  • local authorities
  • diocese or other religious authority or body
  • other educational providers
  • community groups

If you are considering major or complex developments, you may want to consider asking an external expert to help you at this stage.

For example If you are not clear about:

  • land tenure, you may need legal advice
  • whether you can make changes to the building, you may need architectural or structural advice
  • how to phase or coordinate different projects, you may need strategic planning advice

The estate strategy should be approved at board level (and by trustees of the school) as part of business planning.

This will encourage everyone to be involved in the production and make sure that the board takes responsibility for the estate strategy.

Producing an estate strategy

When producing the estate strategy you should think about all options for achieving the estate vision, considering how realistic they are. For example you may want to think about the following.

Financial issues

  • What is a realistic budget?
  • What are the financial constraints?
  • Is the budget time limited?
  • Are there separate funding streams that can be brought together to support common goals?

Educational issues

  • Will the project affect existing school operations?
  • Will you lose existing facilities?
  • Will changes to layout cause problems?
  • Is land ownership clear?
  • Are there any restrictions to the title?
  • Is any additional land required?
  • What approvals or consents are needed?

Community expectations

  • Will the local community benefit?
  • Will they support your plans?
  • Are their expectations clearly articulated?
  • Do your plans support wider educational need?

You should consider options strategically and as a whole, highlighting any conflicts.

Once produced, you should:

  • test the strategy to make sure it’s practical, affordable and effective
  • link it to your school’s financial planning and available budgets

You should discard any options that cannot be realistically achieved.

Review the strategy against your educational vision once a year. This will make sure it reflects any changes in priorities.

What should be in an estate strategy

Your estate strategy should set out a picture of what the estate might look like in the future.

It should not be too detailed or prescriptive about how this will be achieved.

Your estate strategy should set out:

  • your aims
  • how you could achieve your aims (this could include a number of options)
  • things you need to consider further to help you shortlist your options

For example If your estate vision is:

Provide accommodation to meet the number of new places needed locally in the next 3 years.

Your estate strategy might include:

  • aim: review the capacity of the existing estate to assess what additional space you need
  • action: liaise with the local authority to understand the medium to longer-term need for places
  • action: consider how you can contribute to addressing demand and identify options to address any shortfall in the existing estate
  • examples: change the internal layout, extend an existing building, build a new building, use a modular build option
  • considerations: what affect the changes might have on other parts of the school, whether you need to get approval to make changes (for example legal, planning or from trustees of the school), if there is sufficient land in the estate

You should be willing to assess any options recorded in more detail at a later stage, so you need to make sure you are realistic about what you can achieve.

Asset management plan (AMP)

An asset management plan is a short to medium-term plan. It should detail and prioritise what actions you need to take to fulfil the estate strategy.

It will provide the foundation for all estate related activities by:

  • setting out or referencing all policies and procedures related to the estate - for example leasing or hiring premises, disposing of or acquiring land and buildings, reporting and responding to maintenance issues, seeking approval for capital expenditure and procuring technical advice
  • setting out or referencing reporting structures and responsibilities - for example estates related governance and managerial hierarchy and who makes decisions about what
  • making sure that activities have a specific purpose - for example making sure that all operational activities are undertaken to achieve a known outcome and do not waste resources
  • co-ordinating and managing all estates activities - for example identifying all estates activities that will be undertaken and grouping them to ensure they are undertaken as efficiently as possible
  • bringing together all land and buildings related data - for example identifying what estates related data and information there is, and making sure it can be accessed and used by everyone who needs it

It should reference all land and buildings (assets) in the estate.

The importance of an asset management plan

Your asset management plan will help you:

  • make decisions based on an understanding of the current condition and performance of the estate
  • protect the occupants of the school
  • reduce and prioritise maintenance need
  • control running costs
  • make sure unplanned urgent works are responded to effectively
  • efficiently source and procure property and construction related services
  • provide a good fit between education requirements and the property from which it’s provided
  • provide good accommodation for all the users of the school
  • make sure appropriate health and safety management arrangements are put in place for project delivery

You will always have competing demands on your resources. Your AMP is an important tool to make sure you use them as efficiently as possible. It will help you balance what you:

  • want to achieve in your estate vision
  • need to achieve to meet statutory and educational objectives

This will make sure you prioritise works to ensure your estate is safe for all users.

Understanding what works are required will help you identify what resources you need to provide a planned and structured estate management service.

Who should produce an asset management plan

Your AMP should be produced by an executive leader. They should be responsible for the estate and could be a school business or property professional.

They will need information and support to produce the AMP. It’s their responsibility to get input, as required, from those with organisational and/or managerial responsibilities such as:

  • the management team
  • charity trustees
  • trustees of the school
  • diocese or other religious authority or body
  • those involved in operational activities
  • strategic and technical property specialists

You may also involve a range of other stakeholders to help produce and implement your AMP. You should consider who and how many people you involve.

Potential stakeholders you might want to consider include:

  • finance officers
  • data managers
  • school business professionals
  • teaching and support staff
  • academy trust boards
  • board of governors
  • local authority children’s services and landlord representatives
  • diocesan boards
  • community groups and parents

Who you involve should reflect the size and complexity of the estate, your estate vision and your business planning processes. Those involved should make a contribution to the asset management plan by having:

  • an understanding of your objectives and goals
  • a good working knowledge of your day-to-day property operations and issues

The executive leader must manage the expectations of stakeholders and ensure the AMP is produced in a transparent way.

The production of all or parts of the AMP may be delegated to those with operational property expertise. It will be the responsibility of the executive leader to coordinate all the input.

Producing an asset management plan

You should start planning for the production of your AMP as soon as you can, even if you’re waiting for further information.

Review your AMP when you review your estate strategy as it may need updating to reflect strategic changes.

What to consider

Your AMP will be informed and shaped by a number of factors, including:

  • your organisation - such as governance, budgeting, property performance and data management and procurement policies
  • safety - such as health and safety legislation and buildings related statutory compliance
  • land and buildings issues - more technical factors such as condition, maintenance, suitability, sufficiency and tenure

You will need to take all these factors into consideration when you produce your AMP. You should work with your business resource planning colleagues.

You will need to understand:

  • what information and data is held about the land and buildings in the estate
  • how performance of the estate is measured and managed
  • what the priorities are over the period of the AMP
  • what resources are available
  • who is responsible for the different property functions and how issues are reported
  • your governance arrangements and how decisions are made on estate matters
  • your policies for managing the land and buildings in the estate


Maintenance of the estate will be an important element of your AMP. You should aim to plan as much maintenance work as you can, rather than carrying out works reactively. It is recognised good practice to allocate planned preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance budgets in the region of a 70:30 ratio (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)).

Find more about estate maintenance.

What should be in an asset management plan

There is not a standard AMP suitable for all estates. The level of detail and complexity in your AMP will depend on many factors including:

  • the size and make up of the estate
  • the condition of the estate
  • what you need to do to achieve your estate strategy
  • what you need to do to make the estate safe
  • your governance arrangements

For example

For small schools or those with a single site, your AMP could be set out within a single document, and make reference to other existing material.

For larger schools, or MATs with multiple sites, your AMP could be split into separate documents and make reference to other existing material.

Your AMP does not need to incorporate all estates related material into a single document. Some policies and procedures may exist and be held within organisational governance arrangements. What is important is that you take account of these policies and procedures and reference them when you produce your AMP.

Whether your AMP is a single document or a set of documents, you may want to group the content into sections, including:

Introduction and estate strategy

This should set out the:

  • purpose and scope of the AMP
  • estate vision and objectives
  • estate strategy

Organisational framework

This should set out or reference:

  • an overview of your approach to strategic and operational estate management
  • your governance arrangements
  • the key roles and responsibilities for estate matters
  • the policy framework under which the land and buildings are used and managed

Estate management policies and procedures

This should set out or reference the:

  • decision-making processes for estate matters
  • estates management policies
  • framework to manage the performance of the estate
  • relevant operational procedures

The estate

This should set out:

  • a summary of all the land and buildings (assets) in the estate
  • what is required of the estate (and possibly individual assets)
  • how the estate (and possibly individual assets) is performing against key performance indicators.

  • if there are any performance shortfalls and the reasons for this
  • what works or projects are priorities
  • what resources are available
  • a prioritised action plan with estimated resource implications

Estate management implementation

This should set out:

  • how the action plan is to be achieved
  • the arrangements for the monitoring and review of your progress

Appendices or supporting documents

This should include or reference:

  • a detailed list of all the land and buildings in the estate
  • detailed property performance information for each asset
  • any operational guides and handbooks that you may use to manage the estate
  • any procedural templates that you may use to manage the estate

Estate development plan

An estate development plan is a way to coordinate the works identified in the AMP into a single programme.

It’s a structured plan of work to show how the whole estate will be developed over a set period of time. This could be beyond the timescale of the current AMP. It should show how the programme of works contributes to your longer-term estate vision, within the same timescale.

You may not need an estate development plan if you do not have a lot of works to carry out.

For example If you’re only planning to refurbish an individual room and carry out routine maintenance during the year, then you probably won’t need an estate development plan.

If you’re planning construction works on a number of sites over three years, along with major maintenance projects, you may want an estate development plan. This will make sure that:

  • the works are phased and sequential to minimise impact on education functions
  • different types of works are coordinated
  • you procure professional services most efficiently

The importance of an estate development plan

Estate works should be planned to minimise any disruption. Your estate development plan will help you manage this by encouraging you to:

  • plan work logically to meet education needs
  • sequence actions to avoid undoing work and wasting resources
  • make sure that financial and other resources are available at the right time
  • minimise any disruption of day-to-day school operations

Who should produce the estate development plan

Your estate development plan should be produced by an executive leader. They should be responsible for the estate and could be a school business or property professional.

If the works are complex, it may be appropriate to seek professional expertise to produce your estate development plan. This could include designers, architects or programme managers.

What should be in an estate development plan

The format of your estate development plan will reflect the:

  • complexity of the programme of works
  • needs of your organisation

You could present your estate development plan as a written schedule of work or a drawing based masterplan.

A written schedule or programme of works could set out:

  • individual works or projects against a timeline
  • important milestones (such as educational requirements or funding deadlines)
  • reporting requirements

A drawing based masterplan could show:

  • how different parts of the estate are to be developed graphically
  • what works are to be carried out in different parts of a building
  • phasing of different elements over time

Strategic Review

A strategic review is a way to help you understand the existing estate and identify options for its future.

It’s a structured process through which you can assess:

  • how well the estate is performing
  • whether it meets your needs

It will help you explore options for change and develop your AMP.

The DfE are working with LocatED to look at how multi-academy trusts and local authorities can improve the efficient use and management of their school estates. This work is currently being piloted on a small scale, but – subject to the outcomes and lessons learned – LocatED and the DfE will be looking at how they can potentially support a wider range of schools in future.

You may not need to undertake a strategic review if the estate is small or you have a clear direction for its future.

The importance of a strategic review

Your educational and organisational priorities and needs may change over time. You need to understand how the estate helps you meet those needs now and in the future.

A strategic review will provide you with a complete picture of the estate. It will help you make informed decisions about the estate.

The estate may comprise a number of buildings and sites. You can undertake a review of:

  • the whole estate at the same time
  • groups of assets in a particular area

You could phase your reviews so that you review the whole estate over a period of time.

Undertaking a review will help:

  • make sure the estate is actively used to deliver efficiencies
  • make savings or generate income
  • identify which assets are costly and not fit for purpose

Without an understanding of the whole estate, there is a risk that:

  • decisions on the future of individual assets are taken in isolation
  • solutions may not deliver best value
  • you may miss opportunities to deliver efficiencies

Who should undertake a strategic review

A strategic review should be led by an executive leader. They should be responsible for the estate. They will need input and support to carry out the review effectively. It’s their responsibility to get input as required. The process is not an issue just for the property or school business professional.

You will need to draw on a lot of data and information about the estate and how it’s used. This might involve many people and you should set out what is expected from everyone.

You should have clear terms of reference for the review, including:

  • reference to the trustees of the school and diocese
  • clear reporting lines

It’s important that the outcome of the review is formally reported at a senior level.

What should be in a strategic review

A strategic review should take account of both financial and non-financial issues. These should be combined with technical property issues to provide a wide understanding and inform decision-making.

You should set out the criteria for how you will assess the estates performance. This should be agreed at the outset and applied consistently across the whole estate.

Criteria to consider for each asset could include understanding:

  • whether it is sufficient for its current purpose and for future needs (sufficiency)
  • whether it is fit for its current purpose (suitability)
  • whether it is fit for another purpose
  • how much it costs to run
  • what works will be needed in the future to maintain it, and how much will this cost
  • what works are needed to improve it and how much will this cost
  • what restrictions there are that affect what you can do, such as tenure or land ownership issues
  • whether there are any critical timelines that affect when you need to do things, such as the end of a lease or a date for renewal
  • whether there are options for rationalisation or working with other organisations

In assessing performance against your selected criteria, you should take account of relevant guidance and benchmarks. This should include understanding space requirements and how you use your space. Guidance on this can be found:

You should also understand the need for long-term provision of school places in your area, and consider these needs in your review. This should include identification and consideration of how to meet future needs using the estate. You could consider the potential to use modular buildings to meet these needs.

You should ensure that the review is sufficiently challenging. This could involve identifying sensitive options.

The findings of the review should be reported in accordance with the agreed terms of reference.

At the end of the review, you should make clear recommendations about what to do with the estate. You could use the review process to categorise each asset in the estate. This will help you prioritise your resources and avoid waste.

The categories you use should meet your needs.

For example

  • Retention – where the asset is assessed as being fit for purpose now and for the foreseeable future. There will be ongoing running and maintenance costs.
  • Improvement and investment – where the asset is assessed as being worthy of investment to make sure it will be fit for purpose now and for the foreseeable future. There will be an initial investment to bring it up to the required standard and ongoing running and maintenance costs.
  • Alternative use – where the asset is assessed as not fit for its current purpose but is fit for another purpose. There may be costs associated with the adaptation or conversion to the alternative use and ongoing running and maintenance costs.
  • Disposal – where the asset is assessed as not fit for purpose and not worthy of investment. There may be a capital receipt and costs associated with a disposal. Thereafter there will be savings in running costs and maintenance costs. There may be restrictions or consents required before any disposal can take place.

The outcome of the review will inform your AMP and maintenance programme.