At the close of 2016, the BBC reported that 944 local authority schools and 113 academy trusts in England are now in debt. In response to a parliamentary question, ministers revealed that 5 percent of council schools and 4 percent of academy trusts have budget deficits. Going further, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, estimates that 92 percent of schools in England could face real terms budget cuts over the next four years.
On top of budget cuts, research by the Department for Education determined that a large part of the school estate in England was in poor condition or insufficiently maintained. In fact, 44 percent were rated as ‘unsatisfactory’, 23 percent were rated as ‘extremely poor’ or ‘very poor’ with more than two-thirds in need of refurbishment or renewal. It was established that about half of the schools were deemed ‘in need of improvement’.
The Government will spend £4.2bn towards essential school maintenance between 2015 and 2018. However, research by RIBA estimates that around £150 million is spent per annum on unnecessary services and maintenance due to poor school design which could be avoided. The study concludes that good design can have a positive impact on pupils and increase staff productivity by 15 percent.
Reducing these avoidable operation and maintenance costs can release significant savings which can be used to plug the funding gaps that many schools are facing. One way this can be achieved is by ensuring that the products specified for building new, and refurbishing existing schools, provide long-term value, high-quality, and durability. These products should facilitate good design principles, be functional, and help towards low operational costs.
Rising costs combined with funding cuts have left many school leaders in England considering drastic options such as shortening the school day or week, and cutting staff numbers. A reduction in staff at a time when pupil numbers are on the rise could have irreversible effects on the education system as a whole. It is, therefore, vital that schools have enough money available to pay their personnel, especially when you consider that staff costs make up 80 percent of a school’s expenditure.
The challenge of improving the school estate while balancing budgets means that schools must identify all the avenues available to them to save money so that they are able to provide high quality learning environments.
When designing for the future, it is crucial those involved consider the lifecycle of their buildings as well as the products within them. Considering all building elements at the design stage will ensure that they all integrate and work well together to achieve optimum building performance. Flooring is one feature that can be often overlooked at the design stage yet offers much more when it comes to design and maintenance. The best flooring materials feature contemporary designs and are made to be extremely durable and hard wearing to accommodate the high footfall and rigour of everyday use.
Sustainable flooring products should be able to help towards meeting international environmental standards such as BREEAM. Additionally, these products should be tested to meet or exceed industry standards for various elements such as flammability and sound absorption, two critical school building requirements. A crucial component to consider is using manufacturers that can provide long-term guarantees with their flooring solutions.
Interior design products that offer a wide range of colours, textures and finishes are an important part of the modern school environment. Researchers have found clear evidence that colour can have a stimulating effect on productivity, raising staff morale and aiding student concentration. As such, flooring solutions that offer these design elements must be highly considered when creating inspiring spaces.
If you are a Headteacher, Bursar, School Business Manager, Facilities Manager or Specifier, Heckmondwike would love to talk to you. To discuss how Heckmondwike’s carpet and carpet tile products can reduce your maintenance and installation costs, please call 01924 406161 or email [email protected]