Report of the Accounts Commission: Improving the School Estate


Report of the Accounts Commission: Improving the School Estate

The SSTA would comment on the Report as follows.

Too little attention is given in the Accounts Commission Report to the concerns raised by those working in new and refurbished schools, the vast majority of which were built or adapted under some PPP/PFI initiative. The study accepts that these schools could generally "be better designed". The obvious question is "why did this happen?"

The report does accept (Recommendations Part 5) that Councils "should make sure they consult and involve school users at the design stages". This has not happened to an adequate extent. Until this consultation takes place, mistakes will continue to be made.

The SSTA has noted complaints from members relating to new build and refurbished schools which include constant repetition of the following:-

1. Rooms which are too small.

2. Totally inadequate ventilation to the extent that certain rooms cannot be used on warm summer days.

3. Corridors too narrow.

4. Too few teaching rooms (an appalling criticism).

5. "Minimum cost" criteria evident at all levels; basic design, range of accommodation and finishing being subject to particular criticism. Minimum standards are unacceptable: young people deserve better. Building for Excellence should be the watchword.

6. Lack of attention to "snagging" issues.

7. Schools occupied before work on them is complete.

8. Inadequate staff accommodation: in particular, no staffrooms and/or inadequate staff bases.

Items 1 and 2 are expanded upon later in this report:

The SSTA is delighted to assist in any programme which would lead to improvements in the current situation. It is totally clear that the quality of the new schools varies from the "very good" to the "poor". The "poor" should never have been allowed to occur.

In particular the SSTA would be delighted to make comment on the numbers and sizes of rooms in new build schools. If accommodation is inadequate, the new school is unfit for purpose from day one. In this regard, the SSTA totally rejects paragraph 160 of the report: there are no "local circumstances" to be taken into account. There are no variations across Scotland in this matter. Any room which is intended as a general teaching room should be designed on the basis of the number of pupils which might require to be accommodated and not the number which the authority or Scottish Government would like to see accommodated.

With regard to building design, a very significant number of teachers report rooms totally unfit for purpose in warm weather. Windows often cannot be opened to an extent to provide adequate ventilation. Portable air conditioning units are often suggested as a remedy. Where employed, they are generally inadequate and too noisy.

The SSTA strongly supports the use of Regulation to fix a minimum size to all types of teaching areas on the basis of the number of pupils to be accommodated. We would require the adoption of mechanisms to ensure the adherence to these Regulations. The SSTA recommends the new Regulations cover the design of schools. The Regulations would go beyond those currently provided consequent to the Health and Safety at Work Act. Additionally, these Regulations would lay down both minimum and maximum temperatures for all working areas in schools.

On behalf of the SSTA

James Docherty

Acting General Secretary