Half of teachers say school buildings unfit for purpose

One-fifth of teachers in union survey say their school buildings are unsafe, while 44 per cent complain of leaking roofs

Schools in disrepair: Teachers' concerns about the state of school buildings have been revealed in a NEU teaching union survey

Almost half of teachers say their school or college buildings are not fit for purpose, with most blaming a shortage of funding.

And more than a fifth say that parts or all of their building have had to be closed because of disrepair over the past five years, while a similar amount say they are unsafe, a snap survey by the NEU teaching union reveals.

Problems cited by respondents include “birds getting in through holes in roof, and holes in walls being picked at by generations of students". Others say leaking roofs are “wrecking” textbooks and exercise books.


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Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “It is simply not good enough that for so many children and staff, leaking ceilings and rotting windows and crumbling walls are their daily environment.

Funding cuts: the impact on school buildings

“This disastrous trajectory of decay has gone on long enough. Promises, and not just empty ones, need to be made by political parties as to how this will be resolved. We look forward to hearing serious commitments from each of the political parties, so that voters can make an informed decision. If you value education, you must vote for education.”

In the survey of 670 members, 26 per cent said their school or college was delaying turning on the heating for winter.

In the poll:

  • 47 per cent of members said that their school or college buildings were "not fit for purpose", with 65 per cent blaming school funding cuts as the reason why.
  • 21 per cent said that parts or all of their building have had to be closed because of disrepair over the past five years.
  • 22 per cent agreed that the state of their school or college buildings led to an unsafe environment for pupils and staff.
  • 35 per cent said that the situation had changed for the worse in their school/college for buildings, facilities and maintenance since 2015, with just 13 per cent seeing an improvement.
  • The main issues raised by respondents were classrooms that are too hot or cold (74 per cent), leaking ceilings/roofs (44 per cent), crumbling walls/holes in walls (31 per cent), and damp (21 per cent). Members also noted poor ventilation (36 per cent), electrical problems (17 per cent) and faulty boilers/heaters (19 per cent).
     

The survey was conducted after the Department for Education announced a £400 million investment pot that schools and colleges can draw upon for building repairs, but with the proviso that this only applies to academies and sixth-form colleges. 

September's government spending review revealed plans to cut £500 million from the school buildings fund by 2020-21.

In 2010, the Building Schools for the Future investment programme was controversially scrapped, cancelling 700 building projects – a move that former education secretary Michael Gove later said was one of his biggest regrets.

The DfE says almost £2 billion has been invested through the Condition Improvement Fund since 2015 to fund more than 6,000 improvement projects at more than 3,000 schools across the country.

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