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Welcome to the September edition of the Education Buildings Journal Newsletter. We pride ourselves on providing the education sector with a forum to communicate and collaborate, and hope that through this regular newsletter you will enjoy the combination of the latest news and views from educational professionals.

September Issue

The Future is Offsite and Digital

Claire Jackson – Galliford Try

Following the James Review in 2011, Galliford Trys Optimum Schoolsapproach was developed. This responds to the government drivers requesting the design and build of schools to be faster and completed for a lower capital cost. 

Optimum Schools is a way of thinking which is based around a set of principles, such as simplicity of form and efficient layout and the utilisation of off-site manufacture, rather than a one-size fits all product. The approach is based on the premise that many parts of a design for a school do not need to change and can in fact be repeated, but each school does have specific requirements that require flexibility as well. 

Since we delivered our first multi-award winning Optimum School building at Hillview School in 2013, we have continued to evolve our approach so that it remains relevant to the education sector requirements and improves and adapts whilst we continue to learn. The extensive research which we undertook to develop Optimum Schools, helped us conclude that through the configuration of standard components of a school building we could achieve significant efficiencies, while also responding to individual school briefs and specific site requirements. 

By focusing on component-based standardisation we have been able to increase our offsite construction capability, for example using pre-cast concrete panels or structurally insulated panels (SiPs). This increase in ability to manufacture offsite and assemble onsite is helping us to respond to the government’s drivers by addressing both the shortage of a skilled construction workforce and the productivity gap within the industry. 

Whilst building Kingsteignton Primary School in Devon from a timber panel system we not only avoided any potential skills shortages within the local rural community but also delivered the school building 14 weeks faster than a traditional build. The school were delighted with the quality of the new school but also with the speed at which it was built. Dr Penny Fitch, Principal of Kingsteignton Primary School commented The building proceeded at a pace which can only be described as amazing. We do not feel that there are any areas that could, so far, be improved on in terms of communication, quality and speed of the programme.” 

There is increased recognition of the synergy between off-site construction and digital technologies, not just restricted to BIM, but also processes and knowledge sharing platforms.  Early involvement of the design team, shorter design periods and early design freeze with required accuracies, are crucial for the success of off-site manufacturing and the increased use of Modern Methods of Construction.

Within our own business as we move towards a manufacturing and assembly approach we have developed our innovative Education Design Portal to share all of our products, design details and lessons learnt on our school projects.  This digital platform is central to the increase of off-site delivery as this allows us to embrace more collaborative ways of working at an early stage with our supply chain, suppliers and designers, to maximise off-site delivery. 

The launch by the Department for Education of their Offsite Schools Frameworkthis autumn is very welcome news for the sector and digital technology will be central to the ability to deliver more schools by off-site methods.

Could Modular Construction be the Answer?

Eimear Strong – Premier Modular

Ahead of exhibiting at Education Estates in October, Mark Graham, Business Development Director at Premier Modular highlights some of the reasons why the narrative about offsite is changing.

Up and down the country this month teachers and pupils will return to school whilst headteachers and local authorities will be continuing their drive to maximise their teaching space at minimal cost.

At Premier Modular we believe that offsite solutions support this aim whilst developing inspiring learning environments for future generations. With the Department for Education creating their offsite focused framework it feels as though modern methods of construction are going to be at the heart of education developments for some time to come.

More Than Just Classrooms

Offsite has always been associated with classroom build but it has much more to offer. In Manchester alone, we have recently delivered eight schools in 14 months with our partner ISG. Those schools included sports halls with high ceilings as well as catering facilities worthy of any professional kitchen. Collaborating early in the process means you can plan and build a bespoke response to brief whilst innovatively covering any element you require.

No Time to Waste

The need to provide school places quickly and with minimal disruption is crucial. Offsite takes the project off the traditional critical path which is why it’s the approach preferred by many. Site works including foundations, services and external works can be simultaneously completed whilst the building is manufactured in the factory. It means less overall construction time and less overall disruption in comparison to a traditional build. With most of the project happening in the factory it means that site works can coincide with school holidays without the need for on-site supervision.

Inspiring Learning Spaces

The industry has worked hard to banish the ghosts of the old temporary classrooms. Turnkey offsite finishes including temporary decant solutions like the ones we have in our hire division, are of such a high standard now that your staff and pupils will hardly notice that it’s not a permanent classroom. For the permanent build there is of course the capability to create a bespoke design for your brief in addition to providing anaesthetically beautiful learning space. Partnering with an architect can produce schools which take their plans of a traditional build and deliver them in a fraction of the time.

Building a Better Future

Along with minimising disruption, offsite minimises wastage too. The majority of what we build is manufactured from recycled or recyclable materials. By doing the majority of your build offsite you minimise site traffic and the vehicle emissions at your school as well as the overall carbon footprint of the build. This reduction in environmental impact could be a focal point for learning and we are happy to take students through the building processes.

In fact, we welcome your students to our site not just for environmental education but so that they can witness how we build their school. We are keen to showcase modern methods of construction as a career path. With many disciplines to choose from it is a level playing field for men and women and chances of career progression are strong. There is plenty to learn about when it comes to the benefits of offsite for your estate plans. To find out more please join me and the Premier Modular team at stand C16 at Education Estates.

Scotland’s Learning Estate Strategy

Andy Dailly – Scottish Government

We published Scotlands Learning Estate Strategy this week (Monday 9th September). Being able to expand opportunities for people in Scotland to succeed from nurture through to lifelong learning is a key strategic vision.

Helping children, young people and learners of all ages to reach their full potential is critical. The Learning Estate plays an important role in supporting this ambition. Since 2007, the Scottish Government and local authorities across Scotland have collectively invested around £5 billion improving Scotlands Learning Estate.

In 2009 the Scottish Government and CoSLA published a joint School Estate Strategy: Building Better Schools. Since then, collectively, we have made great progress in improving the condition of our school estate. In 2018, for the first time, more than 600,000 pupils across Scotland were being educated in schools in good or satisfactory condition.

When it comes to our colleges and universities the results have been plentiful. We have invested in new campuses and buildings, seen the development of facilities which support the learning needs of students, as well as delivering on our ambitions for the economy and carbon reduction.

These schools, colleges and universities arent only better because they are in better condition. They are better because they enrich the learner journey. By supporting curricular delivery, fostering relationships with the wider community, linking with other public services, embracing the opportunities through digital technology and, importantly, encouraging parental involvement, these facilities all contribute to our national success.

In 2015 the Scottish Government set out a commitment to almost double the funded Early Learning and Childcare entitlement. In 2018, a significant funding package was agreed with CoSLA to deliver a high quality expansion of our Early learning and Childcare Estate. That expansion is now underway and we shall deliver modern state of the art facilities for generations to come. As we reflect on our successes and look ahead we must also continue to ensure that we maximise the benefits of working together.

In 2018, in the Year of Young People, the Scottish Government (in co-production with CoSLA and other partners) set out its intention to jointly publish a Learning Estate Strategy for the future. By collectively connecting people, places and learning (be that physically, digitally, through practice or communication) we will ensure that all of our learners are equipped with the skills and knowledge which they need to reach their full potential.

Placing the whole Learning Estate at the heart of Scotlands communities, learners and businesses are adopting a more integrated approach, ensuring that we will improve the outcomes for all of our learners and enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Innovative Learning Spaces Summit Barcelona September 2018.

Mark Swales – Sheffield Hallam University

I was delighted to chair last year’s International Innovative Learning Spaces Summit which took place in Barcelona over two days in September 2018. It was the third event of its kind which brought together a truly international audience from a wide range of professional backgrounds with a common interest in the development of innovative learning spaces.

I had attended the previous two events and learnt that the interest in designing innovative and engaging spaces to support students’ learning capabilities on physical and virtual learning environments is increasingly important and global in nature. By fostering innovation, universities are seeking to enhance students’ higher education experience and making the most out of their new and existing estates infrastructure to provide the best possible learning environment.

16 countries were represented in the audience from 65 different institutions and architectural practices.  The audience consisted of Vice Provost’s, Registrar’s, Heads of Teaching and Learning, Directors of Estates and Facilities, Liberians, Professors and Directors of Talent to name just a few of the job titles.

The key discussion points included pedagogical approaches linked to learning space planning and design, driving innovation by engaging stakeholders and forming partnerships, estate transformation and learning experience design, teaching millennials and coping with digitalisation challenges and how to deliver meaningful engagement with stakeholders in learning space design.

In summary the event provided an opportunity to hear from expert speakers from across the world as well as a number of panel and interactive workshop sessions over the two days. In terms of meeting delegate expectations they identified a number of outcomes they were hoping to achieve in their learning. The expectations and feedback from the delegates was as follows:

  1. How can we engage with stakeholders in the design of innovative learning spaces? The delegates felt there were some excellent examples of different approaches to this which they could deploy back in their own institutions.
  2. How to create impact assessments to build a compelling business case for change? So we heard about different types of feedback mechanisms but more needs to be done to access research findings which can be shared.
  3. How to create learning spaces that have a positive impact on learning outcomes for all students? We heard multiple examples of different innovative learning spaces and the challenges of implementation but also the success stories and lessons learnt.
  4. What has been the most positive outcome? Having the opportunity to meet new people with a global view on the processes and approaches to delivering great learning spaces. Everyone felt they achieved this through the variety of presentations, workshops, panel discussions and the networking opportunities over the two days

I will be chairing the fourth Annual Innovative Learning Spaces Summit which is taking place on the 19th and 20th September 2019 in Barcelona and I will be presenting the findings from this event at this year’s Education Estates Conference on Tuesday 15th October at 11.45am on the Colleges and Universities Stage.

Raising Attainment and Improving the Outcomes for our Children and Young People

David McEwan – Glasgow City Council

They say that every day is a school day, and when you work in the education sector, that is literally the case! But in all seriousness, in local authorities across Scotland, we are all trying to find new and innovative ways to raise attainment and improve the outcomes for our children and young people.

Whilst a lot of our learning is iterative, those of us who have attended the Education Buildings Scotland Conference in the previous two years, will be looking forward to the forthcoming event in November. We relish the opportunity for policy makers, educationalists, estates professionals, digital experts and, of course, some of our children and young people, to come together. The benefits of sharing our collective experiences in both learning and teaching is perhaps our two most important “school days” of the year.

The past year has been such a busy period for all of us in the education sector. For those in local authorities, perhaps the single biggest challenge or focus of efforts, has been the early years expansion programme and meeting the commitment to provide 1140 hours of early learning and childcare for our 3 to 5 year olds and eligible 2’s by August 2020. In addition to this significant piece of work, business as usual doesn’t go away, designing and building new schools, refurbishing existing schools, and maintaining the estate in good condition continue to be our focus.

It has been a very rewarding year in Glasgow, welcoming four new-build projects into the estate thus far, with another due for completion in November. Our new build projects will have provided replacement buildings for four primary school establishments, one ASL primary, and one early years facility.Our most recently completed new-build school, Riverbank Primary in Dalmarnock, is the first totally new establishment we have built for almost 40 years. This was created in response to the rising school aged population in the city and the legacy of Glasgow 2014. Work will also soon commence on another new establishment in the northwest of the city before the end of the year to meet school roll demands.

We also recently completed,in response to our commitment to the promotion of Gaelic Medium Education in the City,the repurposing and refurbishment of a former ASL Secondary School into a new Gaelic Medium Education Primary annexe with a capacity of 336.

For Glasgow, the Education Buildings Scotland Conferences in previous years have proven invaluable in sharing best practice among local authorities. We are ensuring that each new school we construct captures the advances, innovations and changes in pedagogy and teaching methodologies. For example, the inclusion of more flexible breakout and informal learning spaces is key. Similarly, having benefited from taking part in the‘Inspiring Learning Spacesinitiative a few years ago, we now include an ‘Inspiring Learning Spaceas part of our standard brief for every new school.

In his keynote address last year Mr Swinney said that the two things young people have indicated that they want most of all in their learning establishments are more opportunities for outdoor learning and more use of digital technologies, therefore we have been keen to ensure that opportunities for both are maximised in our new build projects.

So, as we approach the 2019 Education Buildings Scotland Conference, we are looking forward to meeting up with our friends and colleagues in other authorities to share our experiences and to learn from the examples and case studies of successful projects.

Unlocking Potential – Building More Than Schools

Beth Revell – Gleeds

As I prepare for my own daughter to start primary school this September and contemplate my transition from managing the construction of schools to end-user, I have been reflecting on the education construction sector.

This sector, and my work within it, has evolved vastly over the decade of which I have specialised in education. The spectrum of projects from our team now includes transformational schools at the heart of new housing developments, schools with homes built on top, schools integrated into the same building as police stations and even a school above a supermarket. It strikes me that our work is about very much more than just school buildings alone.

Theres an urgent and increasing need for school places across the UK, and yet local authority budgets are continuing to be squeezed whilst there is a lack of cost-efficient sites which are fit for purpose. This has meant that the Department for Education, Local Authorities and schools themselves are looking to maximise their assets, combining education with other building types including residential, health and commercial premises. The potential benefits are easy to understand and provide excellent opportunity to meet wider social priorities, including affordable and key worker housing, as well as investment in our ageing school building stock.

The image of schools set amongst green playing fields is unfortunately fading and as an industry we need to be more innovative to meet current demand. Innovation is not without its challenges. We are working for both Multi Academy Trusts, central government and developers to make these new joint enterprises work, not just in design and planning but in operation. Mixed-use developments inevitably require the collaboration of those public and private sector parties with a vested interest, directing their individual goals toward one shared vision. Relationships between the public and private sector parties are not always natural ones, with some translation and practical understanding required (beyond just learning to talk the same language and decoding all those acronyms or complying with BB103, 93, Section 77 and the OS).

Similarly, before you start to think about new halls, roof top sports facilities and welcoming receptions, there are the principles of a deal to be agreed that will govern the timescales, cost, quality and ultimately success of a new education facility. These principles need to be established and correct, right from the start. Gleeds provides technical advice required to ensure development agreements are fit for purpose and that they deliver alongside building plans. We ensure that those plans fit alongside construction contracts, guaranteeing the build of quality, warranties and ensure that rights are in place should issues arise in the future.

The talk of last years’ Education Estates Conference was LocatED’s call for schools seeking to release the value from their sites, but governance challenges around disposal, S.77, planning and Sports England can make the road ahead seem a long and daunting one. I look forward to hearing from LocatED, industry colleagues at Education Estates this year and joining the debate. Let’s look at how the future role of education facilities are at the heart of mixed-use developments and share our experiences from the UK and abroad.

Why Aspirations to Produce Quality Education Buildings are Constrained by the Perception that they will be Expensive

Jon James – Scott Brownrigg

“A badly proportioned window costs exactly the same as a well-proportioned window”  This phrase has been used for many years by a mentor of mine and is used in the studio regularly. There is little doubt that this statement is true and cuts through the perception that high quality design is expensive. 

So assuming this principle is agreeable, then the debate can move on to why are many of our publicly procured education buildings not being delivered to the high standards in which we and the users clients aspire to?’

The outcome of the construction cost v’s quality of our buildings is heavily influenced by the procurement method. We must continue to scrutinise and question this if we really want to see quality levels improve. The method of procurement should be straightforward and in theory it is. There are relevant frameworks and there are calculations for budgets depending on size, type and location. There are ‘agreed’ rates so that overheads, profit, fees and preliminaries are all there and should distinguish ‘bidderscost submission.

However, as these contracts are generally design and build with direct contractor appointment, the design team who have the specialist knowledge and skills are immediately removed from direct contact with the client and end user. For the client, design and build will de-risk the project from a cost and delivery point of view, inevitably meaning that design quality is the least of priorities.  y way of example this is often how a contractor will look at material selection. Let’s say that on paper, brickwork looks to be the most cost effective material (£sqm), however this does not always take into account additional lintels, a slower program as a wet trade, raising labor cost, scaffolding etc. Whilst considering the material cost in isolation may help secure the project through a low cost base it can only lead to cost problems further down the line.

Why is construction cost the biggest issue? The budget is clearly set out at the outset but there is a flaw in the scoring matrix on some frameworks. There are various versions, but many work on a closest to the average score to gain the highest marks. So this is easily distorted by either very high or very low submissions. Contractors will spend considerable time working out not just the real cost of the project but what cost is needed to score the maximum points on this category. It is not uncommon for the highest scoring bidder on quality to lose based on the way cost is scored and this should be reviewed.

Quality can be subjective and therefore difficult to score. Depending on the framework this can vary from being based on experience to a fully detailed design proposal. If it involves submitting designs then thousands of pounds are invested at risk by contractors and the design team. This should be rectified by either a fair honorarium being paid or completely omitted as per some of latest DfE frameworks.

None of this should be complicated, yet we are still seeing poor design qualityeducation facilities being delivered. A fundamental shift needs to occur in the clients’ understanding and determination to insist on the highest quality education buildings. With this in mind, the range of procurement routes needs to be re-orientated to ensure that the designer is reinstated at the heart of the process. This way we can prove and dispel the myth that quality must be expensive.

How Can the School Estate Better Support Local Communities?

Lara Newman – LocatED

The LocatED team is proud to play its part in the delivery of new, world-class schools and in doing so creating thousands of good school places for future generations of children. It is also committed to supporting improvements and efficiencies in the wider school estate.

Throughout every aspect of our work, one of the core questions we challenge ourselves to answer is how the school estate can best support the local community both now, and in the future?

When it comes to new schools I believe the answer to this question is to put education at the heart of place making, and therefore communities. We must aim to create a future-proof school estate that is open to communities with multi-use spaces that will make it sustainable, flexible and responsive to change.

This strategic approach to location, planning and design is at the heart of LocatED’s acquisition and mixed use development programmes for new schools. Its success however requires us as a sector to move forwards and prioritise open collaboration between schools, central government departments, local authorities, non-departmental public bodies and private sector property companies.

For the existing school estate the answer lies in empowering and educating schools to maintain, improve and make the most of their land and buildings. We must also encourage schools to open their doors to the community and local businesses for mutual benefit.

Parts of the school estate are already well equipped for better usage of this kind, however other parts require significant condition improvement. Land and buildings on school sites can be underutilised, poorly configured or entirely surplus to educational requirements; sometimes areas are mothballed and land goes unused. This can be very challenging to manage, but can also present opportunities to both schools and local communities.

I think that if we can come together as a sector to support school estates professionals working at both ends of this spectrum, we can bring about improvements to both the condition of school buildings and realise the potential of the school estate as a community asset through:

  • Reconfiguring and optimising school sites in the heart of communities to better suit the ongoing flexible needs of education.
  • Opening up school land, buildings and facilities for multiple uses and hire out-of-hours.
  • Generating income through local partnership opportunities with businesses, charities and community groups.
  • Releasing genuine surplus school land to support local authority housing delivery, whilst unlocking significant capital for re-investment to improve school buildings.

These different approaches can significantly increase utilisation of school land and buildings and generate valuable income for schools. They will also, over time, encourage the community to view and access the school estate as an open and public asset.

Sue Corbett and Vincent Bartlett from LocatED will explore this topic in more detail with practical examples on the 15th October. You can find us 11:50am on the Schools Stage at Education Estates.

Discover What the UK’s Largest Education Spaces & Environments Event Has to Offer You

Victoria Emerton – Education Estates®

Education Estates® 2019 supported by the Department for Education has: 100+ exhibitors, 100+ speakers, 2000+ expected attendees, 500+ expected awards dinner attendees and 5 Conference Stages.

Education Estates® 15-16 October at Manchester Central offers attendees advice and guidance for education buildings and sites, covering the repair and maintenance, including both indoor and outdoor spaces, and the planning, design and build of new education facilities.

The conference at Education Estates® this year is the biggest yet, featuring five parallel conference streams, housed on stages within the exhibition:  Schools, Colleges & Universities, Good Estate Management & FM, Architecture & Interiors, and Buildings Performance & Energy Efficiency.

By the Industry for the Industry

The Education Estates® conference programme is overseen by a group of education professionals from a range of backgrounds; architects, contractors, estates and facilities directors, and government representatives.  This group identifies the key issues and areas that the education sector is facing, and the programme reflects those topics, providing information and expertise to give delegates information in the form of examples of best practice, solutions and case studies to inform and guide them in the challenges that they face in their education setting.


Keynote speakers this year include Mike Green, Chief Operating Officer and Director General of Operations Group for the Department for Education, and Lara Newman, Chief Executive of LocatED, both of whom will open the conference on Tuesday 15th October.

RIBA President Professor Alan Jones will open the second day of the conference, with a Keynote presentation. There is something a bit different on the programme the afternoon of the second day in the form of a Keynote presentation by the mathematics legend Jonny Ball, taking us all back to school with:  Wonders Beyond Numbers, a Brief History of All Things Mathematical.

Department for Education

The Department for Education (DfE) is a long-standing supporter of Education Estates®, and this year will be contributing to several sessions in the conference, focussing on building performance, modern methods of construction, and estate management and strategic planning for new schools. Rory Kennedy, Head of Capital at DfE will give a Keynote presentation on the first day of the event, and DfE will also have a stand (F7) in the exhibition, enabling visitors to speak to DfE representatives direct. The Department for Education Sustainability Award sponsored by ENGIE will be announced at the event’s Awards Dinner at The Principal Hotel Manchester on Tuesday 15th October, and the winners and runners up will be part of the conference programme on the second day, in the Buildings Performance & Energy Efficiency Stage.

Tailored Sessions

The event is also fortunate to have links with other expert groups, including the Higher Education Design and Quality Forum (HEDQF), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), LocatED, the Water Management Society (WMSoc), and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), all of whom will be delivering tailored sessions within the conference.

LocatED’s session will cover how LocatED is working with the DfE to improve the efficiency of the school estate, including income generation from school buildings and land, unlocking surplus land and buildings for redevelopment, and improving the capability within Trusts of managing land and estates and planning for long-term maintenance of estate facilities.  CIPFA will announce the CIPFA Education Estate Working Group, which sees key stakeholders join forces to provide a coherent voice. Stakeholders include; The Trust Network, Catholic Education Service, Church of England Education Office, EBDOG, ISBL, ISBA, ASCL, CIPFA, RICS, and IWFM.


RIBA has two sessions – one looking at Innovation in Delivering Value, covering a range of topics – the pathway to a zero carbon school, the resistance to a multi-storey education building based on the associated practical and operational issues, despite the logical benefits of building in this model to save land usage, and delivering value through design.  A second RIBA-led session looks at RIBA technical updates, both an overview of the plan of work for 2019, and sustainable outcomes from the plan.

Conference Content

Within the main conference streams, subjects that will be covered this year are wide-ranging, covering a number of topics relevant across the education sector, or specific to a particular level of education provision.  On the Schools stage, these include planning, building and refurbishing schools, innovation and delivering value, design for manufacture and assembly, a Scottish and Welsh education spotlight, and a look at mixed use sites and high-rise schools.  Within the Colleges & Universities stage, the HEDQF will address the future of the sector, and student accommodation and the wellbeing of students will be discussed.  There is also a session on SEN, Mental Health & Wellbeing in HE and FE.  Funding and the future is an important topic that will be covered, in addition, technology in the estate, and Universities as urban regenerators will all be debated. Over on the Good Estate Management & FM stage there will be a session on good estate management in practice, including a behind the scenes look at masterplan delivery at Sheffield Hallam University.  Planning, and Compliance in fire safety, legionella risk assessment, and water quality in education settings will be covered, as well as security and access, with the Department for Education running a workshop on Good Estate Management. The Architecture & Interiors stage will host discussions on use of art in education, special educational needs, interiors, technology, RIBA Technical Updates, and design for manufacture and assembly.  The Buildings Performance & Energy Efficiency stage will cover sustainability, building services, energy saving, and a session on reduce, reuse, recycle, featuring the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC).  Conference speakers come from a range of backgrounds, all with direct expertise in the funding, design, build, management and maintenance of education facilities.


By attending Education Estates® you can source the latest industry products and services on offer, hear the latest thinking/advice/guidance all whilst networking with industry colleagues.

The exhibition and conference is free to attend for all those directly employed in schools, colleges, universities, national and local government (includes governors and independent schools).

Delegate rates apply for everyone else attending the conference (1-day pass: £205 + VAT or a 2-day pass: £285 + VAT).

The exhibition is free for all to attend and includes access to Keynotes, Buildings Performance & Energy Efficiency Stage and Architecture & Interiors Stage.

To register and for more information go to

Within our continuously evolving industry we shall endeavour to keep you abreast of all the latest happenings. If you would like to feature within one of our future newsletters please do contact our Content Consultant who will happily liaise all things editorial with you.