Memorandum submitted by the National Association
of Head Teachers (NAHT)
The National Association of Head Teachers is
pleased to be able to submit evidence to the Select Committee
on the progress of Building Schools for the Future. The Association
is well placed to do this in that it serves members across the
whole spectrum of education and in all phases. Its membership
encompasses nursery, early years, primary, secondary, special
and further education and the Association is able to speak with
the knowledge and experience that comes from such a wide-ranging
The development of the project is proceeding
fairly rapidly though not always with due thought and attention
being given to learning from the previous waves. Where these have
gone well, schools and their communities are pleased with the
new, up-to-date surroundings in which education is able to take
place. Where projects have faltered for some reason, school leaders
have experienced enormous frustration in trying to solve what
should be minor issues. Relative costs are also a major concern
in this period of tighter school budgets.
Members have expressed concerns over the whole
visioning process. Some authorities lack the relevant experience
and expertise to guide this process effectively. This results
in fruitless discussions and frustration for all parties involved.
To be told to "imagine a warehouse, then think what you want
in it." as happened in one case, may evoke some interesting
replies, not all of them helpful!
It is also true that many contractors continue
to see a buildingthe school community sees it as a school.
Getting beyond this difference of views can be difficult. It means
that the whole nature of how a school functions can be overlooked
and the practicalities of having pupils in the building are not
fully appreciated or catered for.
Government strategies for addressing the need
to "narrow the gap" are not necessarily enhanced by
the Building Schools for the Future programme, because of the
issue raised in the previous paragraph, namely that of understanding
the nature of a school. For example, it is the case that a number
of schools who have endeavoured to implement Extended Services
have had enormous difficulties locating them in the school. Contractors
have charged excessive amounts for the school to use the building
for "additional hours". Teachers have been told they
are not to go into the school premises during school holidays
(including the summer break) without a member of the contractor's
staff to accompany them. This is patently totally unworkable and
displays a lack of understanding of the way that school staff
The Association has concerns that the changes
to the National Curriculum across the Secondary sector are not
necessarily catered for in the current BSF schools. This needs
to be addressed as a matter of some urgency. However, it cannot
be addressed solely by the schools but can only be dealt with
by joint working with the authority, schools and contractors.
Addressing some of these issues at the point of drawing up the
contract for future BSF waves will hopefully resolve some difficulties.
5. FUNDING AND
There is still an apparent shortfall between
the funding that is allocated for BSF schools and the final cost
to the authority's and schools' budgets. Although some progress
has been made in addressing this matter from the more serious
problem of the earlier waves, the problem still remains and needs
to be resolved once and for all.
Schools are having to face what is acknowledged
to be a tighter budget settlement over the current comprehensive
spending review period. For BSF schools this leads to more problems
as the cost of any repair or maintenance work is generally considerably
more than if the work was carried out by a local contractor known
to the school. The length of time that repairs take is also a
cause for concern.
Understanding the urgency behind a repair request
is not a skill demonstrated by many of the contractors involved
in BSF. For example, for toilets to be blocked in a school with
a special education unit is difficult, for the response to a request
for repair to take five days is totally unacceptable. As the BSF
programme runs out into Primary, this sort of delay, and the attitude/lack
of understanding that it shows, needs to be corrected.
6. LESSONS LEARNT?
The Association has reason to believe that lessons
from the earlier waves are not being learnt fully. Contractors
are selling on the contracts, leaving schools exposed. Local authorities
are losing the staff with experience of BSF and therefore are
unable to offer adequate support to schools as they go through
this process. They are also coming under pressure, allegedly,
to agree to placing academies in the authority to ensure it moves
up the wave order. Again this is unacceptable practice.
While the Association appreciates the work that
has gone into the BSF programme already underway, it has major
concerns that lessons from the early projects are not being used
to inform future planning. The building stock has undoubtedly
improved because of the BSF programme. However, the issues that
it raises bring more problems for schools and their communities
for which no-one appears to have ready answers. More worryingly,
it may be the case that no-one has the will to find the solutions.