TSB0005

 

Written evidence submitted by Hampshire County Council

 

 

 

 

Purpose of this Report

1.         This report is to provide evidence from Hampshire County Council to the Public Accounts Committee in response to their call for evidence on the Condition of School Buildings.

2.         To confirm that Hampshire County Council would welcome the opportunity to participate in the discussion when the committee meets.

Executive Summary

3.         Hampshire County Council (HCC) is the largest Responsible Body in the country. It educates approximately 1 in 50 of the children in England and has the largest Schools Condition Allocation (SCA). It manages over 400 schools and works with other Responsible Bodies as well as other Local Authorities through Shared Services Agreements.  It has a large inhouse multi-disciplinary Property Services team and the experience shared in this report provides comprehensive evidence in support of this review. 

4.         HCC believe that the DfE approach of having a high-level programme to understand the bigger picture on estate condition and expecting Responsible Bodies to gather data to manage their estate is correct. However, it thinks that the DfE should:

         Fund Responsible Bodies for property management

         Ask Responsible Bodies to provide them with information on their estates

         Consider what support smaller Responsible Bodies need to manage their estates

         Make additional funding available for ‘safety issues’ in buildings that do not require rebuilding

         Look at a more holistic approach to gathering data to ensure building suitability and climate adaption are considered in their surveys and cost data

5.         HCC agree with the approach that the DfE take in allocating funding to major projects, to Responsible Bodies and to individual schools however it does not believe that there is sufficient funding to address all of the maintenance required to ensure schools can be adequately maintained. HCC also believe that there should be more join up with other funding sources such as ‘SALIX’ to get the best outcomes.

6.         The DfE asks Responsible Bodies to provide an annual return on the spend of it’s SCA grant. HCC believe that it could ask them to provide a strategy for the spend of it’s grant to help it understand whether it is being spent effectively.

Context for Hampshire County Council

7.         Hampshire County Council (HCC) is the largest Responsible Body in England with over 184,000 children educated in 533 schools.

8.         The type of schools in Hampshire is as set out in the table below

 

School type

Number

Community, Controlled and Foundation schools

407

Church Aided

54

Academy

72

Total

533

9.         The HCC school estate is diverse, ranging from a 400 year old listed building to recently completed new schools located in densely populated town centres through to the South Downs and New Forest National Parks. The largest building type (approximately 40% of the estate) are ‘SCOLA’ system buildings constructed between 1960 and 1975 and Hampshire has around 25% of the ‘SCOLA’ buildings constructed nationally, which are now well beyond their estimated initial design life.  The overall condition liability HCC is monitoring and managing across its maintained school estate is estimated from surveys to be circa £420million.

10.    HCC receives the largest Schools Condition Allocation (SCA) and Devolved Formula capital allocation in the country, currently a total of £26.5million (over 50% more than the next largest) which is in part due to the size of the estate, but also because of the high condition need of the school buildings.

11.    HCC Property Services offers a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to Community, Controlled, Foundation and Aided schools in Hampshire which 95% of schools sign up to. This SLA includes statutory testing, inspection and servicing as well as regular surveys of the school estate.  Additionally regular structural inspections are carried out at all school buildings and risk assessed fire safety inspections. Any defects are managed through a robust ‘repair instruction’ process to ensure any remedial works are undertaken.

12.    In addition to the targeted specialist inspections; each school is visited annually by a qualified building professional and includes a meeting with the school Head and/or site team as well as a tour of the building. Schools are given (and able to request) advice on day-to-day management and how to report defects.  All of this ensures that as the Responsible Body, HCC has a good understanding of its buildings to ensure that it can allocate funding to the highest priorities.

13.    HCC has a large in-house Property Team of over 400 professional staff comprising of structural, mechanical and electrical engineers; architects, building, estates and quantity surveyors and facilities managers. It is multi-award winning and nationally recognised for its work with schools and leading-edge approach to research and innovation. 

14.    HCC Property Services delivers work for a number of other public sector bodies across the South of England, including Reading Borough Council, Isle of Wight Council and a number of Diocesan responsible bodies on their school estates.

15.    HCC work collaboratively with the DfE across a whole range of building related issues and is currently working closely with its School Rebuilding Programme team to share experience and methodology for rebuilding and refurbishing “system build” school blocks.


DfE understanding of school building condition

Survey information

16.    The Education portfolio makes up the largest part of the public sector estate with 64,000 buildings across England. The age, construction type and condition need of the buildings varies considerably across the country.

17.    The DfE collects information through the CDC surveys (and their predecessors) which gives them a high-level overview of the condition of the estate to give a general understanding of necessary work and cost of bringing all schools up to a good condition level.

18.    Responsible Bodies are required to have a more detailed knowledge of their own estate / buildings to be able to prioritise works to ensure that their buildings are safe.

19.    HCC believes that this split of responsibilities is appropriate because:

         It is impractical for the DfE to collect and manage detailed information across the whole estate

         It requires Responsible Bodies to have a knowledge of their estate which will ensure that they understand whether their buildings are safe and effectively managed

         It allows detailed surveys to be targeted to the needs of the local estate as a one size fits all approach would be inappropriate and costly

         As noted below, funding needs to be delegated to Responsible Bodies to undertake maintenance and a good knowledge of the estate is essential to ensure this is spent appropriately

20.    HCC consider that Responsible Bodies should be surveying and have good information on:

         Structural condition of the building with the frequency of the survey assessed against the building construction type

         Safety of the building fabric – examples would include high level building structure such as gutters, failing window ironmongery, lathe and plaster ceilings, etc

         Hazardous or deleterious materials such as asbestos

         Suitability and condition of the building safety systems – for example the fire alarm and structural fire precautions.

         Accessibility of the building to ensure compliance with the Equalities Act

         Adequacy of the building to meet climate change commitments and climate adaptation requirements

21.    The current round of CDC surveys (‘CDC2’) are being undertaken over a 5 year period and follow on from the PDS surveys and the initial CDC surveys. Programmes of surveys have therefore been undertaken over a 14-year period. Whilst the information shows that there is a general deterioration of the buildings, this is to be expected given there is currently insufficient funding to meet the backlog of maintenance. The cost of the current CDC2 surveys is £42million equating to £8.4million per year.

22.    HCC would recommend that:

         The DfE consider funding Responsible Bodies to undertake survey and inspection work to ensure this work is completed as this approach would provide comprehensive information and a greater breadth of data

         The DfE ask Responsible Bodies to report on the surveys they undertake to provide information on their buildings to gain a better understanding of the estate

         The DfE consider how they could further support smaller Responsible Bodies that do not have the resources to undertake the necessary activities; as it is recognised that the capability and approach to managing buildings varies across the country significantly

Safety issues with buildings

23.    The DfE has recently requested information on Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) across the Education estate and it is important they understand where there are significant known construction issues to be able to react to them. RAAC panels are a significant hazard and it is essential that work is undertaken to remove or strengthen them.

24.    Beyond RAAC, there are other types of (predominantly system build) construction that have known structural defects / limited lifespan such as Laingspan, Intergrid (or similar concrete framed) buildings, Vic Hallum (or similar timber framed) buildings. The DfE collect construction type information as part of the CDC2 surveys but have not shared this information with Responsible Bodies to review against their records.

25.    In addition to structural integrity, some buildings have life limited components throughout that can have a significant safety impact. Examples include:

         System buildings such as ‘SCOLA’ with Crittal steel framed windows and cladding - the window ironmongery and in particular hinges are liable to fail with age and due to the slenderness of the frames cannot be easily replaced or refurbished. If hinges fail, the window sash will fall and risks a heavy window sash falling. HCC has installed safety catches onto all of it’s Crittal window SCOLA buildings as a short-term measure, but the windows need replacing

         Lathe and plaster ceilings – can fail without warning bringing heavy plaster down onto the room below. They are used extensively in classrooms built prior to 1920 and sometimes as late as the 1950s

         Woodwool slabs – these were used extensively in the 1960’s and 1970’s and regularly in system buildings often as a flat roof deck. These are known to be fragile materials, particularly if they become wet

26.    HCC supports the DfE’s work to identify building types as part of its CDC2 surveys, but would recommend that it considers collating information on building components to identify buildings with significant risks. Additional funding should be provided to address buildings with higher safety issues.

Building suitability

27.    When looking at the condition of a building, an assessment of the existing building components can generally be made, with a cost allocated based on the ‘like for like’ replacement to current building regulation standards. For example, a replacement flat roof would include insulation and replacement of single glazed windows would specify them to be double glazed.

28.    This approach works for a lot of building types, but it is not always appropriate to address items individually and a more holistic approach is then required to bring the building up to a good standard. A good example being SCOLA system-built schools, where there are the following issues:

         Flat roof with an asphalt covering and a woodwool slab deck. There is heat loss through the roof in the winter and significant heat gain in the summer

         Lightweight cladding comprising single glazed crittal windows and lightweight (often asbestos) panels. This creates further significant heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer

         These buildings have large expanses of glazing and are often orientated with classrooms on the south and west elevations.  This was intended to ensure rooms were well lit, but has a ‘greenhouse effect in the summer and issues with glare from the low sun in the winter

         Rainwater disposal is through downpipes that run inside of the building linked to gullies on the roof. They are under-sized against current standards and prone to failure in the more intense rain that is now experienced

         As originally constructed, SCOLA buildings are not suitable for the installation of a heat pump as the lack of insulation means that a heat pump, circulating heat at a lower temperature, would not be able to adequately heat the building

29.    The original SCOLA buildings now have a poor learning environment which has a consequential effect on academic performance. Simple reroofing and window replacement can resolve the condition of the building elements, but this alone would not fully address the other factors noted above.

30.    HCC has therefore developed a SCOLA recladding approach that addresses all of the condition and environmental issues noted above.  A case study with more detail is included in Appendix 1. This system costs more in the short term than simple elemental replacement, but extends the buildings life ensuring it is fit for purpose and provides a good quality learning environment.

31.    It is recommended that the DfE consider a more holistic approach to bringing system building types (that do not need rebuilding) up to a good standard, as a simple elemental approach does not address all issues and is likely to cost more over time.

Climate Adaptation

32.    Climate change is having a significant impact on the performance of school buildings through:

         Building overheating caused by more frequent heatwaves affecting the learning environment

         Energy performance of buildings and the need for decarbonisation

         Increased risk of flooding (and associated property damage) due to more intense and heavier rainfall and due to coastal erosion

33.    The UK Climate Change Committee’s report to Parliament in March 2023 on ‘Progress in Adapting to Climate Change’ noted that the DfE’s understanding of the exposure of the national schools’ estate to overheating from heatwave events is currently limited. 

34.    HCC is taking a leading role in progressing research and developing revised new build and refurbishment specifications.  It is currently working on a number of initiatives, including overheating research in conjunction with the DfE and Southampton University, and details are included in Appendix 2.

35.    HCC recommend that the DfE consider the cost of climate adaptation as part of their data collection.


DfE allocation of funding

36.    The DfE allocates funding through the following mechanisms:

         School Rebuilding Programme (SRP) – a centrally delivered programme to rebuild the schools in worst condition

         School Condition Allocation (SCA) – funding allocated to Responsible Bodies over a certain size for them to prioritise and spend on locally agreed works

         Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) a centrally held fund for smaller Academy Trusts to bid against with the funding allocated to the Trust for local delivery

         Devolved Formula Capital (DfC) – a grant direct to schools to be spent locally

37.    HCC agrees with the DfE approach of allocating funding at different levels to ensure that money is available for the buildings in most need, but also to ensure that money is available for Responsible Bodies and schools to spend on local priorities.

38.    Schools often look to use their DFC allocation to fund works which may be a low priority from a building condition perspective but have an important impact on the pupil experience in a school. A good example of this is toilet refurbishment, where the facilities maybe in a fair condition but the environment is such that pupils are unwilling to use them. Research has shown that this can affect educational attainment and so is a priority for schools.

39.    HCC emphasise the local allocation of funds through the SCA programme remains critical to ensure that Responsible Bodies are able to deliver essential improvements against its building maintenance and climate adaptation strategies.

40.    Whilst HCC agree with the approach that the DfE takes on the allocation of funding; there needs to be significantly more investment to enable a less reactive approach to maintenance to be undertaken. Although HCC seeks to balance urgent repairs with proactive preventative work, it continues to manage and monitor an estimated condition liability of circa £420millionTherefore, HCC’s SCA grant of £23million is insufficient to maintain pace with the deterioration of its aging estate or to improve buildings to an appropriate standard for effective learning.  To illustrate - at current funding levels and pace, some of the SCOLA buildings already over 50 years old and with defects as noted in paragraph 28 above, will wait a further 20 years to be improved.

41.    To supplement the funding from DfE, HCC makes regular bids for other funding and grants.  It was recently successful with a significant Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) bid via SALIX, which was combined with SCA funding to both improve building condition and reduce carbon emissions. The bidding process was however time consuming, cumbersome, and out of sync with the SCA funding which hindered planning.

42.    HCC therefore recommend that the DfE work more closely with other funding agencies such as SALIX to identify a more efficient approach.

 

DfE assurance that funding is being spent efficiently and effectively

43.    Because of the limited funding available to Responsible Bodies, often issues are being addressed reactively in response to urgent repair needs.  Greater funding would enable a more proactive and planned approach to maintenance, with larger planned projects providing greater value for money than a high volume of small but urgent works.

44.    The DfE receives an annual return from Responsible Bodies to report on the SCA spend within the year on completed projects against a list of types of work, but it does not request detail on how responsible bodies define their priorities for its use.  HCC has a comprehensive strategy for the prioritisation and delivery of the SCA work and would be happy to share this with the DfE.

 

Conclusions

45.    The DfE’s understanding of the condition of school buildings would be increased by requesting and providing funding to Responsible Bodies to carry out surveys of their estates to record information on other condition liabilities not practical to be captured by its CDC surveys.

46.    The DfE would achieve more efficient use of its funding, by implementing a more holistic approach to addressing condition liabilities across the large portfolio of “system-built” schools that do not require to be rebuilt as well as a more coordinated approach with grant making bodies to ensure funding is spent effectively and efficiently.

47.    Significantly greater Government funding is necessary for the DfE and Responsible Bodies to maintain the necessary pace to manage and reduce maintenance liabilities across its Education estate.

 


Hampshire County Council evidence submission

UK Parliament – Public Accounts Committee

The condition of school buildings

Appendix 1  - HCC SCOLA Case Study

 

2010 – original HCC pilot

2022 – current HCC approach

2023 – HCC “towards carbon net-zero” pilot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CASE STUDY FOLLOWS ON NEXT PAGE


 

Original Pilot

SCOLA Re-Cladding at Fernhill and Quilley Schools

Award info i.e RIBA Award 2010, FX International Best Interior Design Award 2009

 

Location:

Eastleigh, Hampshire Farnborough, Hampshire

Client: 

Hampshire County Council

Value: £1.14 million

Completed: September 2010

Specialist teams:

Architects: HCC Property Services

QS / M&E: HCC Property Services Structural Engineer: 

HCC Property Services

Contractor: Morgan Sindall


 

In the 1960s an affordable and quick building method was needed to meet the exceptional demands of educational expansion. SCOLA buildings were introduced because they meant many schools could be designed and built at the same time. However, with poor insulation and over glazing they are uncomfortable learning environments and give rise to high energy consumption.

The structure of the buildings is sound, allowing designers to improve through over-cladding. HCC Property Services chose two separate SCOLA blocks as pilot schemes to design and trial a new cladding system. The chosen projects, at Quilley School of Engineering* and Fernhill School and Language College, were required to look like new builds, have an enhanced internal environment and extend the life of the buildings.

The new cladding system was designed to meet modern building standards, even taking into account different locations and building structures perhaps with different thermal performance levels. The proposals were thermally modelled to analyse anticipated improvements.

The cladding system was designed to be durable and low maintenance, for use at secondary school sites. The existing structural frame, ceilings and foundations were retained to reduce the build cost and programme. The carbon footprint of the buildings has been reduced and there have been added ‘future proofing’ measures including high-grade insulation, solar shading and passive ventilation.

The system is lightweight, to enable the existing structure to accommodate the new cladding, and the material finishes can be adapted for different environments.

Key Benefits:

  Build costs reduced by re-investing in the school’s assets. Saving made through re-cladding rather than re-building.

  Educational environment improved - more comfortable temperatures and reduced glare.

  Carbon footprint reduced and savings in energy costs.

  Visually a modern new building for the school to be proud of.

  Life of the building significantly extended.

 

     The whole block has been completely transformed...Staff and students can now work in a modern, safe, energy and maintenance efficient building. The whole process was worth the minimal disruption caused.

Business Manager, Quilley School      This was without doubt the most successful project carried out by HCC on the Fernhill site in the last 20 years...The result is a re-clad that looks like a newbuild and an overall effect that has transformed the school.

Head Teacher, Fernhill School

 

 

 

* Quilley School of Engineering now forms part of Crestwood Community School


 

SCOLA Re-Cladding at Fernhill and Quilley Schools