Aligning Your Estates Vision With Your Educational Vision

Jo Marchant, author of the brilliantly practical “The School Premises Handbook”, has worked in school estate management for the last 15 years.  In this blog, Jo shares with us her thoughts on how to align your estates vision with your educational vision.

Your eductional vision should influence everything you do, from how you run your estate to where you decide you buy your goods and services. As Jo articulates so well in this blog, it is “the golden thread” that runs right through your school and holds it together.

As you would expect, Jo provides some excellent, down to earth tips that everyone can follow and you can apply to any area of your school.

  1. What strategies or best practices should you follow to ensure that your estate vision aligns with your educational vision?

Firstly, it’s important to ensure that your school’s educational goals and long-term vision are clearly articulated and in the forefront of everyone’s mind.  It’s helpful if it can be formulated into a number of key questions and answers that are regularly stated at meetings.  Examples of such questions are:

  • Why do we exist?
  • How do we behave?
  • What do we do?
  • How will we succeed?

These 4 questions and their answers can then form a golden thread that runs through everything you do.

Your estates strategy document should start with your educational goals, and then your long-term vision, examples of which are as follows:

  • Our school will have the highest quality professional environment for staff – For example, standardised and quality equipment in each classroom, office space allocated to teachers from the same department so that collaboration and best practice sharing occurs naturally through conversation.
  • Our school has the premises and facilities required to enable an excellent learning experience for students in every subject For example, identify what premises and facilities your curriculum requires to deliver that excellent learning experience, such as more or better quality science labs?

Once you’ve established what you need, identify how you will benchmark when you’ve achieved it.  What will success look like?  Once you know that, then carry out a gap analysis regarding what your estate and premises look like now, what you’d like them to be, and how are you going to get from A to B.  That’s your roadmap to success.

Of course, in this process, it’s important to get feedback from stakeholders on how your estate and facilities are currently performing in the delivery of teaching and learning.  The most useful feedback will come from those who are using it day in, day out – your students and staff.  So, get their feedback via focus groups, learning walks and questionnaires.  Ask students what changes they would make to the environment to facilitate their learning.  Also getting feedback from others who may have seen an effective learning environment in other schools is always helpful.

  • How do you ensure that the school’s physical infrastructure is well-maintained, safe, and conducive to effective teaching and learning?

Well maintained and safe schools start with systems, and systems need data.  Collect data about your school’s physical infrastructure.  A building condition survey is a good place to start because this will describe the condition of external elements, such as roofs and windows, as well as internal elements such as ceilings and walls, and also mechanical and electrical elements, such as the state of your heating system.  The building condition survey will rate each element as good, satisfactory, poor or bad, and also prioritise it into works that are urgent, essential, desirable or to be achieved in the longer term. 

Once you’ve collated all this data, then you have your starting point to develop your system to maintain your school’s physical infrastructure.  The action plan that comes out of your building condition surveys then forms your asset management plan which is a live document that should list all the actions required and be updated as each action is completed.  Utilising a computer-aided facilities management (CAF-M) system allows you to capture all your data in one place, and keep it updated as tasks are carried out.  It also allows senior leaders the opportunity to review progress against targets. 

The other major advantage of using a CAF-M system is that once you’ve inputted all your physical assets onto it, the system should automatically generate a list of regular checks and tasks that need to be carried out.  As each of the tasks are completed, the system should be updated so that you can see at any given time what tasks are outstanding and what level of compliance your buildings are at. Of course, a challenge that all schools face is the cost of maintaining their existing buildings and infrastructure whilst also wanting to invest in developing them for the future.  Consequently, planning is essential in both areas as well as identifying the most efficient and effective ways of delivering both, all the while linking back to your estates vision for delivering your educational goals. 

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