Memorandum submitted by the National Union
of Teachers (NUT)
The NUT welcomes the opportunity to provide
evidence on the Building Schools for the Future programme and,
in particular sustainable school buildings.
Prior to 1997, schools were starved of investment
and buildings were crumbling. For many years, the NUT highlighted
the need for investment in school buildings; leaking roofs, inadequate
lavatory facilities, poor security and lack of space for carrying
out preparation, planning and assessment activities, all common
complaints from teachers.
This is supported by one of the key findings
of the PwC First Annual Report on BSF published in December 2007:
"The report highlighted a number of concerns
about the existing school estate. The vast majority of existing
schools were found to be old (built before 1976) and were increasingly
unsuitable for modern teaching and learning."
By far the greatest problem that needs to be
addressed in relation to the School Capital Stock is the presence
of asbestos. This is the NUT's clear priority as it is literally
a matter of life and death.
For these reasons, the NUT welcomed the BSF
programme with the Government's initial pledge that all secondary
schools in England and Wales would either be rebuilt or refurbished
QUESTION 1: RATE
The Government announced in 2004 that the timescale
for the BSF programme would be extended to 2016 and even then
many rebuild projects would only be at the planning stage by that
This "slippage" in the programme is
hugely disappointing to the NUT not least because many reasons
for this are down to the inadequate management of the procurement
process and, in our view, the reliance upon PFI rather than conventional
capital funding routes to deliver the BSF programme.
Another factor is the effect of the Academy
Programme and Trust Schools. The NUT opposes the link between
Building Schools for the Future funding and the Academies programme.
Much-needed resources for school buildings provided by BSF have
been used to promote the Government's "choice and diversity"
agenda and local authorities have been pressured to include Academies
to ensure that their "Strategy for Change" proposals
were approved for BSF funding.
The Union has regularly received reports from
its local secretaries of instances of this pressure on local authorities,
despite assurances from Government ministers that BSF funding
is not allocated on this criterion, for instance in the reply
by Schools Minister, Jim Knight to a Parliamentary Question by
Ken Purchase, MP, on 15 October 2007:
"It is already our policy to fund Building
Schools for the Future projects whether or not an academy is included."
The Academies programme is a highly controversial
political initiative which has been opposed at national level
by educationists, trade unions, governors' and parents' organisations.
Individual Academy proposals have stimulated vigorous campaigns
by local stakeholders. The Academies programme has not been subject
to independent evaluation to ascertain whether the outcomes in
terms of pupil achievement are significant, sustainable or value
for money. Nor has its impact on the coherent provision of education
and local democratic accountability been assessed.
Under the criteria listed in the recent DCSF
consultation on BSF, reference was made to schools performing
beneath the 30% "floor target" becoming Academies. This
is seen as a strategy for addressing under-achievement, despite
the fact that the GCSE results of 26 of the existing 83 Academies
currently fall beneath that "floor target".
The Government's proposals under the National
Challenge strategy have been announced since the BSF consultation.
The NUT rejects the purely arbitrary "floor target"
referred to above which stigmatises 638 schools as under-achieving.
This categorisation takes no account of either contextual value
added scores, or of Ofsted's inspection evaluations. These assessments
show that 203 of the schools have a CVA value of 1005 or above;
that 16 schools were graded "outstanding" by Ofsted;
147 were graded as "good" and 361 were graded as "satisfactory".
The NUT, in particular, condemns the proposals
in the National Challenge strategy for an expansion of Academies
programme by 70 by September 2010 and for an expansion of Trust
schools as a school improvement strategy for the reasons outlined
in this response.
The NUT would urge that the development of the
Building Schools for the Future programme should not be used to
favour diversity of provision through the promotion of two types
of school, Academies and Trust Schools, and that there should
be a level playing field in terms of assessing local authorities'
proposals for inclusion in the programme on the criteria of educational
and building stock need, not "diversity".
In the future BSF waves the DCSF, and within
it the Academies Unit and the Office of the Schools Commissioner,
will need to make it clear in their advice to local authorities
that it is not a requirement to include within bids proposals
for Academies and/or Foundation Schools with Charitable Trusts.
It has been made clear to the NUT by the Schools Adjudicator and
the Schools Commissioner that in order to fulfil the 2006 Education
and Inspections Act requirements, all that is necessary is to
demonstrate diversity in the provision of schools. It is quite
possible for a local authority to make a proposal in any secondary
reorganisation, for example, which demonstrates that every secondary
school can offer a diversity of specialism while maintaining community
status. This should be published in the final BSF guidance.
THE BSF PROGRAMME
Other factors hindering progress include the
shortage of construction workers, and the difficulties faced by
local authorities who are inexperienced in handling such vast
The First Annual Report on BSF commissioned
by the Department and carried out by PwC found that the "barriers"
to the process were more numerous than the "enablers"
workload increases, particularly
within SMT at school level; and
complexity and bureaucracy with expectations
that the initiative required a high level of commercial sophistication
that was lacking in some local authorities and which jeopardised
their procurement and delivery performance.
The Report acknowledges that the Local Education
Partnership model (the Government's preferred procurement model
for BSF) is still evolving and only acknowledges "some evidence"
of good practice. The disadvantages of the LEP model are cited
as less value for money, a lack of transparency and the lessening
of the local authority's powers.
QUESTION 2: HOW
The NUT shares experience and practice between
division secretaries (co-terminous with local authority areas)
in the initial waves (1-4) and later "waves" in the
There is little evidence that the procurement
body effectively disseminates experience of those authorities
in the early waves as evidenced by the First Annual Report:
there is scope to improve communication
(particularly between local authorities and schools) and reduce
complexity of management which is perceived as a barrier.
QUESTION 3: HOW
The NUT has long argued that high quality buildings
are a key factor in the promotion of teaching and learning and
the changing nature of many teaching practices and approaches.
In addition, well designed and maintained schools which are "fit
for purpose" make pupils and teachers feel valued. Pupils
feel proud of their environment and are more likely to respect
and look after it.
The NUT is concerned that the "visioning
process" may be lacking particularly where new-builds are
concerned. This, in our view, is because they are financed through
PFI rather than conventional capital spending methods.
The NUT shares the concerns of the Commission
for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in this respect.
In July 2006, CABE published a report assessing the design quality
of 52 secondary schools built across England between 2000 and
2005. The Report highlights the general poor quality of schools
procured using PFI. The Report found that, whilst any procurement
route can produce a good result, schools procured through PFI
tended to be rated poorly. All but one of the 10 schools with
the lowest scores were procured using PFI.
QUESTION 4: HOW
The local Educational Partnership is the Government's
preferred model for procurement body.
Local Authority Education Partnerships (LEPs)NUT
The NUT has serious concerns about the formation
of LEPs, in which local authorities only have a 10% share. We
believe that this transfer of power to a LEP, 90% of which is
made up of unelected organisations, will undermine a local authority's
ability to plan strategically, as well as local democratic accountability.
Lack of Effective Consultation
The NUT firmly believes that the views of local
communities, including staff, pupils, governors and parents, should
be actively sought and taken account of at the design stage. This
would help avoid the sort of avoidable design slip-ups which are
so regularly reported in the press. DfES guidance to Wave 2 local
authorities, issued in 2004, states that authorities "need
to develop a strategy for engagement and consultation with local
stakeholders". The BSF.gov.uk website states that staff "will
have the chance to get involved in the consultation process on
the future design of your school". Despite this advice, NUT
local officers regularly report difficulties in obtaining information
about contracts and projects. Reasons given for withholding information
relate to concerns, real or alleged, about maintaining commercial
confidentiality. This lack of transparency does nothing to promote
confidence in the process.
PWC in their
first report on the BSF programme published in December 2007 identified
the "evolving" nature of LEPs as a "barrier"
rather than as an enabler to the process.
The Report acknowledges that the Local Education
Partnership model (the Government's preferred procurement model
for BSF) is still evolving and only acknowledges "some evidence"
of good practice. The disadvantages of the LEP model are cited
as less value for money, a lack of transparency and the lessening
of the local authority's powers.
QUESTION 5: PROGRESS
Climate Change Mitigation
Without comprehensive monitoring of CO2 emissions
from schools it is not possible to assess the overall progress
being made on emissions reductions by the schools estate.
However, there is anecdotal evidence of excellent
progress towards sustainability being made in a minority of individual
schools, described in the Ofsted report Schools and sustainability.
A climate for change? (May 2008). Much of this appears to
be attributable to the commitment and enthusiasm of individual
teachers and head teachers.
The NUT welcomes also the agreement by the Secretary
of State to the NUT's request that guidance should be sent to
schools on teaching about climate change given the uncertainties
created by the adverse legal judgement on the distribution of
Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to schools.
The NUT supports Ofsted's recommendation that
the Sustainable Schools programme should be linked more closely
to BSF, not least because of the teaching and learning opportunities
that arise when schools contemplate changes to their energy and
It is important to note, however, that forms
of behaviour change being introduced successfully in schools,
such as switching off lights and computers, are only effective
in minimising waste and unnecessary energy consumption. For significant
reductions in schools' CO2 emissions the focus has to be on changes
to building design, energy efficiency improvements and the introduction
of renewable energy technology, which can only be achieved through
the BSF programme.
The NUT welcomes the £111 million of additional
funding, announced in December 2007, for the installation of carbon
reduction and renewable energy technology in more than 200 secondary
schools undergoing major refurbishment over the next three years
as part of the BSF programme.
The Union believes that the introduction of
a renewable energy tariff (or feed-in tariff) would complement
and enhance this funding by providing a financial incentive to
install renewable energy technology which has the additional attraction
of providing a source of income from electricity generated surplus
to requirements, for example during school holidays.
The Union also welcomes the recent announcement
of the Zero Carbon Task Force, set up to "overcome the technical,
design and construction challenges" of achieving the Government's
long-term goal that all new school buildings should be zero-carbon
from 2016 and supports the sentiments of the Secretary of State
when he said "I don't have time for critics who will carp
that this is impossible. I know that current technology makes
zero-carbon schools expensive and challenging to install on many
existing school sites. The fact is that we have a clear moral
responsibility to future generations to make it happen. We can
no longer sit back and wait for the science to catch up with usit
would be a dereliction of duty if we did." (DCSF Press Release
16 June 2008). It is to be hoped that the recommendations from
the task force might be implemented sooner than 2016.
Climate Change Adaptation
The Union is concerned that the focus on emissions
reductions, while essential, is overshadowing the need to adapt
to the impacts of climate change over coming decades. The BSF
programme appears to ignore the need for school buildings to be
adapted to provide greater resilience and/or reduced vulnerability
to climate change impacts.
Defra's Adapting to Climate Change (ACC)
programme is presently tasked with developing a robust and comprehensive
evidence base about the impacts and consequences of climate change;
raising awareness of the need to take action and help others take
action; and working across Government at national, regional and
local level to make sure the need to adapt to climate change is
embedded into Government policies, programmes and systems (presentation
by Deputy Director of the ACC Programme at a TUC Climate Change
conference, June 2008). The NUT firmly believes that climate change
adaptation measures should become embedded into the BSF programme,
for the reasons set out below.
It is forecast that as a consequence of historical
emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change is unavoidable over
the next 30-40 years. Newly qualified young teachers therefore
face, during the course of their professional careers, the UK
continuing to get warmer; summers continuing to get hotter and
drier; winters continuing to get milder and wetter; extreme weather
events becoming more frequent; and sea-levels continuing to rise.
The UK Climate Impacts Programme, 2008, indicates that by 2040,
the extreme temperatures witnessed in Europe during the summer
of 2003, when 30,000 people died, will be considered "normal".
These near-term impacts of climate change, which
are expected to occur regardless of the success or failure of
our mitigation attempts, will leave school buildings vulnerable
to the impacts of wind, rain, storm, fire and subsidence, and
needing new forms of temperature control which focus less on winter
heating and more on summer cooling. The UK Climate Impacts Programme
(UKCIP) argues that design decisions based on historical climate
data are likely to be inadequate for this future and the NUT believes
that this advice should be heeded and building regulations amended
According to the ACC programme, "adaptation"
can mean a number of things. In the case of high classroom temperatures,
for example, adaptation options would include the following:
Live with or accept change;
(eg put up with overheating in schools)
Retreat from changeor avoid
(eg stop schools opening in July)
Increase resilience or reduce vulnerability;
(eg build new schools with better ventilation)
Protect existing systems to prevent
change from having an impact on behaviour;
(eg install air conditioning in classrooms)
UKCIP proposes similar adaption options, including:
Temporarydo nothing or install
Managerialsiestas or different
Strategicnew build as part
of a national programme.
The NUT is very concerned about the impact of
high classroom temperatures on the health, safety and welfare
of staff and pupils.
In the absence of a specific legal maximum working
temperature, Union policy is that 26 degrees C should be the absolute
maximum temperature in which teachers should be expected to work,
other than for very short periods.
Without adaptation, schools will be forced to
close whenever a threshold external temperature is reached, ie
a temperature at which extreme discomfort and health hazard occur.
For a threshold temperature of 32 degrees C, UKCIP projects that
within five to 10 years the threshold would be exceeded on 10
days per annum. In later decades this frequency would increase.
Closing schools and altering the school day
or school year to accommodate future weather patterns have significant
repercussions, especially if carried out in an ad-hoc fashion
or without proper debate. The NUT strongly believes that the first
response to the impacts of climate change should be through the
technological and strategic routes of retrofitting solutions to
existing buildings and/or building new schools. Hence the significance
of BSF to climate change adaptation and the need to ensure that
all refurbishments and new builds fully take into account the
predicted impacts of climate change between now and 2050.
Climate Change Policy
UK climate change policy also looks set to impact
on schools. Once the Climate Change Bill becomes law (currently
expected to be autumn 2008), the Government intends to introduce
a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme for the UKthe Carbon Reduction
Commitment (CRC)as a means of achieving its CO2 emissions
reduction target of at least 60% by 2050. The CRC will apply to
large non-energy intensive public and business sector organisations
(meaning those with electricity use of 6,000 MWh per year).
Defra's initial proposal for the treatment of
schools was a voluntary one, with Local Authorities (LA) taking
responsibility for school emissions in those specific cases where
the LA paid the energy bill for that school. During consultation,
a large number of stakeholders expressed support for a mandatory
approach with all state schools being included under the Local
Authority portfolio, ie the LA would be the participating CRC
organisation and would be responsible for school emissions under
CRC regardless of whether they were the counterparty to the electricity
supply contract or not.
The following reasons have been offered as supporting
a mandatory approach to include state schools:
In the main LAs do not pay the energy
bill for schools and as such the voluntary approach is likely
to lead to a variable and patchy coverage of schools across the
CRC, as an instrument, is well suited
to targeting schools as part of the LA estate since LAs exercise
a significant degree of influence over the schools for which they
are responsible and it would also encourage LAs to provide energy
management support for schools;
The scheme is designed to tackle
energy use emissions of organisations with many small emissions
sources by placing obligations essentially on the "corporate
centre" (which is in a position to direct or influence the
conduct of those subsidiary bodies for which it is responsible)
rather than individual emitters. The principle is that the "corporate
centre" is much better placed in terms of expertise and resources
to respond to the administrative requirements of a cap and trade
scheme, compared with the individual emitters, Local authorities
as "corporate centres" and schools as individual emitters
closely follow this model.
There are significant opportunities
for cost-effective energy efficiency savings in schools.
At the time of writing, the Government has said
only that it has rejected the voluntary approach for schools.
This leaves open the possibility of either a mandatory approach,
or the exemption of schools from the CRC.
The NUT is concerned that under this LA portfolio
model there is a risk that Academies will not be included, as
they are not the responsibility of Local Authorities. The mandatory
inclusion of maintained schools in a carbon trading scheme whilst
excluding Academies is not a sustainable solution.
Local Authorities which succeed in keeping their
emissions within or below their allowances would be able to sell
surplus credits and disburse the proceeds back to schools for
investment in further emissions reductions. However, failure to
keep within the carbon budget would force the LA to purchase additional
credits, potentially at the expense of other school expenditure.
It is essential therefore that the BSF programme be aligned with
the CRC in such a way as to enable LAs to make the necessary carbon
reductions from the schools estate.
If Academies are not part of the LA portfolio
(and are not included in the portfolio of some other parent organisation
such as the DCSF) then they will face no such financial penalty
for failure to reduce their emissions. This could lead to what
is known as `carbon leakage', in the form of schools choosing
to opt out of LA control to become an Academy in order to avoid
being subject to mandatory emissions reductions. While this might
suit the DCSF's current education policy it would be completely
counter to the Government's climate change policy.
While the NUT is not convinced that carbon trading
is an ideal response to the challenges being faced, it would argue
that under the Government's CRC proposals, the DCSF must find
a way of ensuring that Academies are included in the LA portfolio,
or that of some other parent body. The only alternative would
be the complete exemption of all schools, which would leave the
DCSF target of a 60% reduction by schools merely an aspiration
and less likely to be met. It would also only ever be a temporary
The NUT believes that the urgency of the situation
demands that the Government's ideological stance on reducing the
number of LA schools should be reviewed and replaced with a commitment
QUESTION 6: HOW
The current DCSF guidance for BSF rightly emphasises
the importance of flexibility and adaptability in the design of
all new schools. Advances in knowledge about teaching and learning,
as much as Government policy initiatives such as personalisation,
mean that the "classroom" for 30 pupils is no longer
the most important feature of school accommodation. One to one
tuition, such as that currently being piloted in the Making
Good Progress trial; small group literacy and numeracy intervention
programmes; and team-teaching of larger groups of pupils all need
to have appropriate spaces within schools in order to be implemented.
It is important therefore that new build schools,
in addition to core "traditional" classrooms, also offer
a range of smaller and larger rooms which would provide the flexibility
needed to be able to personalise the learning experience for pupils.
In addition, such a variety of room sizes is
also important if schools are to be able to fulfil their broader
functions as defined by the Government's Children's Plan, such
as acting as a hub for study support activities and a variety
of children's services and engaging parents and the wider community
in learning activities. Securing appropriate accommodation for
such developments is proving a key issue for existing schools,
therefore it should be a prominent feature of new build schools.
The NUT would caution against prescriptive guidance
on school design which was predicated purely on the requirements
of current Government initiatives, however, as teaching and learning
needs change constantly and therefore the spaces in which that
teaching and learning takes place will also probably need to change.
The school itself, with independent support, should have the greatest
influence over design, as it will consider the issue from an educational
view first and foremost, rather than give greater importance to
stylistic considerations or the need for the new building to "make
a statement", which may be an architect's prime consideration.
The University of Cambridge Primary Review recently
issued an interim report on schools' built environment.
Although it is specifically concerned with primary schools, its
findings have far wider implications and the NUT would commend
the report's analysis to the Committee, in particular the way
in which factors such as classroom size, ventilation, lighting
and noise levels can both individually and in combination impact
on pupils and teachers, including on pupil attainment as measured
by National Curriculum test scores. It concluded that "the
ways in which school design factors impact on children's behaviour
and school ethos is complex, and effects are often indirect or
cumulative". It also noted that the school environment can
affect different groups in different ways and recommended that
further research was needed to support the Government's investment
in building new schools.
Not only are schools the focus of children and
young people's education, the buildings and grounds are also their
principal social spaces. This aspect of school design has long
been neglected, however. Very few schools, either new build or
refurbished, have dedicated spaces for pupils to relax and let
off steam or to work independently. New (and many existing) Danish
schools, in comparison, incorporate student "chill out zones"
and "work stations" as an integral part of school design.
In addition, school grounds have been overly
neglected in the DCSF guidance on BSF to date, which represents
a lost opportunity to maximise their potential usefulness both
within the school day and beyond. It also fails to reflect recent
initiatives such as the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Learning
Outside the Classroom, Healthy Schools and the National Play Strategy.
The EYFS for example, which applies to primary
schools and "all through" schools as well as early years
settings, is clear that access to outdoor play opportunities is
essential for the learning and development of young children.
It is not, though, a statutory requirement because of the potential
impact of such a requirement on the full range of early years
providers. It would seem sensible, therefore, for new build provision
which offers the EYFS to take the lead in this area and for the
DCSF to insist that adequate outdoor play areas, which children
can access independently, are included in all new build design
The DCSF Play Strategy, which is currently out
for consultation, says "we want school sites to offer good
play opportunities for children in the form of good school playgrounds,
playing fields and other facilities to support active and constructive
play". It is important that guidance is provided, however,
on what constitutes "good" in terms of play. Too often,
new or refurbished playgrounds are equipped with metal play equipment
on a concrete or tarmac base, which provides few opportunities
for children to exercise their creativity in use of the equipment
and increases the likelihood of accidents when children fall.
Any guidance for schools on the development of school grounds
should emphasis the importance of natural materials and landscaping
in the design of play areas and more creative alternatives to
the "swings, climbing frame and slides" which are traditionally
found in such areas.
The NUT believes that changes to legislation
may be needed if the Government is serious about enabling schools
and local communities to make adequate play provision. Municipal
playing fields are not as well protected as those owned by schools,
despite the fact that many schools use fields owned by local authorities.
In addition, a school's field is only protected if it is 0.2 hectares
or more in size, while a council-owned pitch has to be at least
0.4 hectares before consultation is required on any potential
The playing fields of schools which are due
to close currently lie outside the protective legislation. Through
the Building Schools for the Future and Academies programmes,
as well as through general local authority school reorganisation
plans due to falling rolls, this means in effect that thousands
of school playing fields are vulnerable. A tightening of the planning
laws is needed to make it much harder for community and school
playing fields to be sold off.
In addition, BSF schools and Academies which
involve PFI may be limited in the amount of access to recreational
facilities they may be able to offer pupils, and the wider community.
Academies, for example, are supposed to share facilities with
the local community (and other schools) as set out in their Funding
Agreements. However, because of VAT regulations (usage must be
for relevant charitable purposes for at least 90% of the time),
if Academies make their facilities available to local people and
charge for this, as the vast majority wish to, they have to pay
VATso the vast majority choose not to open them up. Similarly
with BSF schools funded through PFI, the need to generate revenue
for the term of the PFI agreement has led to many managing companies
limiting the amount of access the school may have to its facilities
beyond the school day, as these are rented out rather than able
to be used by the school and its pupils for no cost.
The NUT has previously, in its play policy Time
To Play (2007), recommended that staff, pupils and parents
should be involved in and able to influence the design of BSF
schools to ensure that there are appropriate outdoor spaces and
provision and that classrooms allow for flexibility within the
curriculum, such as role play spaces and for large indoor construction
or tactile play opportunities. Many NUT members have reported
that they were disappointed with the end results of building projects
where their views were not included in the final building design.
The NUT would also recommend that specific advice
on planning for play, both inside and outside school buildings,
should be included in the DCSF guidance for Building Schools for
the Future. In addition, an audit of facilities for play in schools
should be undertaken nationally. The findings of such an audit
should be used to inform developments arising from the Building
Schools for the Future initiative, to ensure that all schools
have sufficient space to develop play areas within the classroom,
the school and the school grounds.
QUESTION 7: DEVELOPMENTS
ICT FOR SCHOOLS
One of the biggest problems with schools built
or refurbished under BSF has been the widespread transference
of estate management functions to the private sector, including
ICT contracts. Where a school finds its long-established working
relationships with the local authority thus severed, it can often
encounter problems in building a successful relationship with
the new provider of such services, at least in part because such
organisations rarely have any real experience of managing school
It is advisable to monitor closely the performance
of such private providers to ensure that, in particular, health
and safety standards are not compromised by a desire to limit
financial outlay. Where, for example, final checks are conducted
prior to the occupation of a new or refurbished building, confirmation
should be soughtand obtainedthat such checks are
sufficiently robust, and that they are carried out by competent
There are widespread concerns about the suitability
of construction materials used by contractors involved with BSF
projects. ICT suites may be used by several hundred energetic
pupils each day and thus demand a level of durability far in excess
of that required in domestic or commercial premises. Fixtures
and fittings, too, are likely to be subjected to far more robust
treatment than might be the case elsewhere. Many head teachers
have been astonished, therefore, to find that their school has
been charged for repairs or replacements when the expectation
was that the materials should have been strong enough to cope
with normal school usage. Items damaged through routine "wear
and tear"or even simply because they have reached
the end of their natural lifeare often attributed to "vandalism"
by the body responsible for facilities management. It can then
take a considerable amount of time and effort to resolve the matter
satisfactorily. The irony here is that one of the chief benefits
of the involvement of the private sector was supposed to be the
freeing-up of time for head teachers to concentrate on teaching
and learningnot an increased focus on premises management
Where ICT support and maintenance has been transferred
to the private sector on a contract basis as part of a PFI-funded
programme, there can be financial repercussions for the School
involved. Changes to operational PFI contracts were found to cost
a total of £180 million in 2006 in a report by the National
Audit Office (Making Changes in Operational PFI Contracts).
A key issue when considering developments in
the procurement and design of ICT for schools is that those who
may take lead responsibility for its planning with contractors,
head teachers, are likely to lack the technical knowledge and
understanding required to make informed decisions. In an NUT survey
of its head teacher and Leadership Group members in 2004, for
example, 11% of school leaders did not feel confident and an additional
22% expressed mixed views on their confidence in using ICT. In
addition, 52% had undertaken training which could have boosted
their level of awareness of their school's ICT needs whilst 48%
had not. This would indicate that independent support, which head
teachers could access when dealing with contractors, is essential
to ensure that the Government's considerable financial investment
is used to support the teaching and learning needs of schools,
rather than for the benefit of the contractor.
The NUT believes that the current guidance by
the DCSF should be strengthened and that all ICT procured or designed
as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme should
be subject to basic minimum requirements to ensure that it is
fit for purpose.
Most importantly, ICT hardware provision should
be flexible, in order for schools to maximise its potential as
a teaching and learning tool and at the same time offer consistency
of technical quality standards, regardless of the contractor(s)
As schools move away from using ICT only in
designated ICT suites, contractors must reflect recent changes
in pedagogical practice and integrate ICT provision in every classroom
or space used for teaching and learning, including staff and student
work rooms. All classrooms should be designed to be able to accommodate
comfortably a white board and digital projector. As schools move
away from desktops and exploit the greater potential offered to
pupils by laptops, there must be sufficient power sockets to enable
laptops to be plugged in to be used as well as to be recharged.
This flexibility should also include contractors
providing wi-fi systems which can be accessed by the whole school
community and beyond, where appropriate. This is especially important
for schools in rural areas, where the higher cost and difficulty
of securing a reliable high speed broadband connection may be
used as a reason for failing to provide this essential educational
In addition, contractors should offer schools
choice in terms of the ICT hardware purchased, as contractors'
focus on value for money and keeping costs to a minimum may be
at odds with the educational rationale for requiring different
sorts of ICT resources, for example, offering a choice of whiteboards,
as those produced by different manufacturers have specific different
features or a mix of Apple Macs and PCs, because of the former's
association with industry-standard graphics and other creative
As part of the procurement and design process,
technical support should be built in as one of schools' basic
ICT requirements. Such support must be able to address the educational
purposes of ICT usage, not limited solely to practical "computer
malfunction" type issues, which is likely to be the type
of support supplied by contractors to business and other private
A particular feature of PFI-funded school rebuild
and refurbishment programmes, including BSF, is the limitations
placed by the management company on the use of schools' premises
beyond the formal school day. This has particular implications
for schools' efforts to tackle the "digital divide"
amongst students from disadvantaged backgrounds and also to enhance
community access to ICT, as these activities may be seriously
curtailed in schools where strict limits are placed by the management
company on out of hours facilities usage. The NUT would recommend
that the contracts for all such management programmes should give
priority to schools' pupil support work, including that undertaken
QUESTION 8: HOW
14-19 DIPLOMAS AND
TO 18 IS
IN BSF PROPOSALS?
In its Strategy for Change, which is
the first formal component of the BSF approval process, there
is the intention to capture both the local authority's strategy
for 11-19 education and the requirements that strategy places
upon the BSF programme.
In addition, to secure coherent capital investment
to support the 14-19, it formally extends BSF and the Strategy
for Change development to include all settings in which young
people learn, including Further Education (FE).
The recent White Paper, Further EducationRaising
Skills, Improving Life Chances, remitted local authorities,
in line with their strategic leadership role in delivering 14-19
reform, to ensure that their Strategy for Change policy
is fully comprehensive in setting out the local facilities to
deliver the 14-19 entitlement, including the contribution
of FE providers.
It is intended that, for the first time, there
is a fully integrated capital strategy which will deliver facilities
for 14-19 year olds across schools and the FE system.
BSF is tied up with the performance of local
authorities and schools. BSF investment involves meeting
objectives set out in the `Remit for Change' given by the DfES
to local authorities. The content of this remit may contain, "improvements
to provision and outcomes as they relate to particular policy
areaseg 14-19, school under-performance, inclusions, SEN
and extended schools". The criteria on 14-19 provision outlines
what local authorities will need to demonstrate in order that
the capital funding allocation will support the delivery of 14-19
entitlement. One of these points is:
"How the local authority will ensure collaboration
between schools, colleges, other learning providers (including
apprenticeships and other work-based provision); Connexions and
Education Business Partnerships to support the 14-19 entitlement".
(Strategy for ChangeGuidance for Local Authorities
in BSF, July 2006)
In the Strategy for Changethe
Guidance for Local Authorities in BSF Wave 4, July 2006there
is reference to the new 14-19 Specialised Diplomas. It states
"By 2013, we expect every young person to
be entitled to pursue any one of the 14 lines at an appropriate
level for them, wherever they are in the country. We intend that
the practical element of the diplomas should be delivered by people
with real vocational experience in suitably professional environments.
This new national entitlement will include a legal duty on schools
to secure access for every young person at the school to all 14
curriculum lines. Delivering this entitlement will require profound
change in many aspects of provision. As well as being properly
equipped for their own vocational specialisms, schools will need
to collaborate with each other, colleges and training providers
to deliver the full entitlement to all young people."
The NUT has significant questions to ask on
how local authority BSF bits will impact on the implementation
of the 14-19 Diplomas. This is unclear in the bidding criteria.
These questions are set out below.
How can schools offering the Diplomas
have an influence in a meaningful way on local authority BSF bids?
How will decisions on major adaptations
to BSF schools impact on individual Gateway consortia in their
long-term commitment to Diploma implementation and delivery?
The relationship between BSF bids and Diploma
implementation needs to be clarified further.
QUESTION 9: THE
OF BSF AND
The DCSF consultation seeks views on a range
of proposals for new waves 7 to 15 should be managed and acknowledges
that lessons should be learnt from the early waves.
A summary of the NUT's response to the department's
consultation is set out below:
The NUT recognises that as the BSF
programme progresses, and areas of significantly greatest social
and economic need are addressed, there will inevitably be less
difference in need between projects. We do therefore accept that
there should be a wider set of criteria for the prioritisation.
We agree that educational and social
need is used as a tie-breaker is a sensible and fair way to proceed.
Before this criteria is applied, however, we would want to be
sure that all "competing" schools benefit from acceptable
basic accommodation, which meets legal requirements, in terms
of noise insulation, lighting, ventilation, toilet provision and
disability access. We accept that if there are two schools which
both meet, or don't meet, the above requirements, then educational
and social need would be an appropriate tie breaker.
The NUT is in favour of extended schools which
meet the particular needs of communities. We believe that the
best way of joining-up and co-locating services for children,
young people and families is for schools to work together to provide,
for example, breakfast and after school clubs, whose facilities
can be shared between two or more schools. This will help avoid
a situation where the school with facilities on site becomes more
popular with parents, thus depriving a neighbouring school of
New Authorities Entering BSF Programme
We would expect that all authorities new to
the project will be able to prioritise a small number of schools
where the state of the fabric of the buildings require urgent
Local authorities themselves are in the best
position to judge whether more assistance is needed to bring them
to the point where they are ready to deliver. We do have concerns
that many local authorities lack experience in managing large
scale projects and are at risk of being outmanoeuvered by their
more commercially astute private sector counterparts. Anything
that can redress this balance would be welcomed by the NUT.
The extension of LEPs' remit
We are opposed to the use of LEPs because of
their inherent private sector bias. We would not, therefore, wish
them to be given an expanded role as we do not believe that the
needs of school communities would be served by such an expansion.
We note, again, that the main concern seems to be to `make LEPs
more attractive commercially'. This will inevitably be at the
expense of pupils and staff. If a project is more attractive commercially
to a provider, it is likely to be less attractive, in terms of
the finished product, to the end user.
Barriers to co-ordination of services on school
Neighbouring schools' admissions can be affected
by the location of extended services, for example, breakfast or
after school clubs, in one school. Such facilities are understandably
popular with parents and can lead to increased demand for places
at the `extended' school, with a knock-on effect on the neighbouring
school. For this reason, we prefer that extended services are
shared between schools so that more pupils and parents are able
1 Wall, K, Dockrell, J and Peacey, N, Primary Schools:
The Built Environment, University of Cambridge Research Survey
6/1, 2008. Back