Industry slams continuing secrecy after Building reveals raft of post-occupancy findings
The government is understood to be holding back the publication of post-occupancy data on schools that examines the link between school buildings and academic achievement.
The existence of the research has come to light after Building this week revealed findings from a major post-occupancy review by former delivery body Partnerships for Schools (PfS) into the performance of school buildings, which also had not been published.
Key findings of the review have been exclusively revealed by Building.co.uk throughout this week after it was leaked, with the report published in full today for the first time (see file attached, below right). The study examines 25 primary, secondary and special schools built or refurbished by the previous government, including those under the Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF). It shows:
Undertaking post-occupancy evaluation (POE) was a central recommendation of Sebastian James’ government-commissioned review of schools capital, which described POE as “a critical tool to capture […] learning” in order to help develop best practice in school design and construction and lower costs.
Below we publish the full recommendations of the report.
For full coverage of the overall design review findings in the report see here
For full coverage of the sustainability failings, see here
A central recommendation of the POE report itself was that it should be “shared more widely” and leading industry figures, including the British Council for School Environments (BCSE)this week slammed the government for not publishing it. The industry also called on Department for Education (DfE) to publish any further post-occupancy information it has thataddresses educational attainment.
Darren Talbot, head of schools for Davis Langdon, said it was a concern the government had not published its POE research.
“We need to know what aspects of it the department has concerns about or what aspects they don’t believe are valid in future schools and that should be part of the debate,” he said.
Steve Beechey, head of education at Wates, said: “The industry is striving to produce more efficient schools to help the government deliver more for less, so this kind of information is invaluable. The more we know about the impact of previous projects, the better equipped we are to achieve this.”
A DfE spokesman said: “As the report focuses on BSF - a programme no longer being taken forward - and on projects where the levels of funding, area sizes, and procurement routes have all changed, it was not published.
“However, the relevant findings have been taken on board and will be used in future school building programmes.”
The report said post-occupancy evaluation should become a “normal part of the capital spend review process, using a streamlined methodology that takes account of the current government priorities, considering the lessons learnt from this POE”. It adds that the POE, which the Department for Education has refused to publish, should be “shared more widely”.
The schools evaluated were using “considerably more energy” than current benchmarks. The annual saving achieved by reducing a school’s energy consumption form the worst to the best performance in the POE “could pay for a new teacher”.
The POE also found that the impact of low-carbon technologies was variable and that schools with kit, such as solar PV, “had little understanding of the impact of their renewable technology and often had high energy consumption”: “Interestingly the better environmentally performing schools had no low carbon technologies. Instead they adopted good energy management practices and the staff and students had a good understanding of the impact of their behaviour”.
The POE found that while most schools had very good facilities for PE and sports, not many were making the full use of the school grounds to support teaching and learning across the curriculum or for social activities. It said the most successful schools were those where the design considered the whole schools site, not just the buildings.
Although schools were well equipped with ICT the POE found that the potential of ICT to support teaching and learning the POE found was “often not fully realised”
The most successful schools were designed to give users flexibility and were managed to ensure optimum use was made of the spaces.
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