Planning your estates strategy

You can’t deliver on your educational vision if you don’t have the buildings to do it in. Drew Hird explains why every trust needs an estates strategy, and how to go about putting it together

Author details

Drew Hird is the Building Consultancy Director at Eric Wright Building Consultancy. Drew is also a Chartered Building Surveyor and Chartered Manager with over 30...

An estates strategy is a 3 to 5 year plan which will help you:

  • identify what you need from your estate and its facilities
  • consider how you can achieve your estates needs to meet the required educational outcomes
  • identify any potential challenges and barriers
  • coordinate estates activities to meet the estates vision.

It also allows the development of the short to medium term asset management plan and will help you:

  • provide a safe environment for school community
  • stay compliant with building rules, regulations and legal matters
  • plan your spending and anticipate demands
  • meet future capacity and educational needs
  • identify funding needs and opportunities
  • satisfy community expectations.

Conversely, as the DfE’s guide to good estate management for schools points out, poor estate management can lead to:

  • inefficient use of resources and poor investment decisions
  • risks to the safety of building users
  • teaching areas being taken out of service
  • disruption to the day-to-day running of your school
  • whole or part school closure.

Understanding the estates' demands and needs directly impacts finance. Having a well-developed estates strategy will also put you in an ideal position to maximise the various funding streams available to support the estate when the opportunity arises. In other words, when bids are announced and there’s only a two-week window to apply, you will have all your key information to hand!

Where do you start when putting together an estates strategy?

It starts with your vision and aspirations for your trust or school. What do you want to achieve? What do you need from your buildings to be able to deliver that?

For example, if the purpose of your multi-academy trust is to deliver exceptional teaching and learning, what kind of buildings and classrooms are needed? What does it mean for the school environment?

Build a picture of the demands and considerations you need to incorporate in planning

It’s about making the link between assets and aspirations. If one of your trust’s aspirations is to act as a hub for community services in your area and be a focal point for multi-agency working, what implications does that have for your buildings? What spaces will be required? 

So, you start with data gathering – and a vital part of that is seeking views from stakeholders, so you can build a picture of the demands and considerations you need to incorporate in planning. Forward planning and engagement across the whole school community must be achieved.

Potential stakeholders Questions to consider
Local authority
  • What’s happening with pupil numbers in the next five years? What might be the implication for our school/s?
  • What are our local demographics? E.g. What are our pupil premium numbers like? Or number of pupils with high needs, SEN and so on? What implications does that have for the kinds of spaces we need?
CEO and board
  • What is your vision for the trust?
  • What are your future aspirations for the trust in terms of growth? Are we taking on new schools?
  • If the trust is seeking to expand, where’s the head office going to be?
  • Are there any specific aims and targets?
  • What options need consideration?
Teaching and learning lead
  • How many learners do we have?
  • What kind of classroom environment do you need in order to deliver outstanding teaching and learning for our pupils? Are classrooms fit for purpose?
Site managers and teams
  • What’s the current condition of our buildings?

This table gives just a few examples of the stakeholders you need to consult. Other local stakeholders might include:

  • diocese and church leads
  • NHS, social services, police etc.
  • community leaders
  • third sector organisations.

You will also want to gather information from the finance director, the school business managers, the senior leadership teams, governors and trustees, parents, pupils, surveyors, building consultants, decarbonisation experts… there’s a lot to consider!

What do you need to consider in developing an estates strategy?

Many factors will influence how you manage the estate, including:

  • the size, location, age and condition of buildings and land in the estate
  • land ownership, tenure and constraints
  • how effectively the current facilities meet the specific educational needs of the school
  • the type, size and nature of the body responsible for the school
  • available funding and the future aspirations for the estate
  • area based considerations of the need for places or spare capacity in the system
  • the terms of your funding arrangements.

(Good estate management for schools)

What does an estates strategy include?

Your estates strategy doesn’t have to be a lengthy document. It could include:

  • information about the schools in the trust, their geographic distribution and pupil numbers
  • a summary of the condition of the buildings – are they fit for purpose?
  • factors influencing the strategy, such as population demographics and social context
  • aims for the estate, and how these can be achieved
  • our educational and estates vision
  • organisational context
  • signpost to policies and procedures.

Get expert input

An assessment of the school buildings can’t be limited to simply considering their current condition. An in-depth review is needed to consider demands on reactive maintenance and technical compliance, as well as the wider issues of space, capacity planning and anticipated demands on the estate in future years. Having a clear understanding of key data, including carbon management, is vital.

You don’t have to do all this alone! Getting professional technical support will help ensure that your estates strategy is robust and fit for purpose. Building surveyors, building services engineers, energy efficiency experts and architects can all be of use. Building consultants, such as the Eric Wright Building Consultancy, can be valuable partners in the process.

Useful organisations

Last Updated: 
20 Jul 2021