Less than a third of pupils in ‘good’ school buildings

New figures also show that 12 per cent of pupils in Scotland are in school buildings deemed ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ for curriculum delivery

Henry Hepburn

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Nearly nine in 10 pupils in Scotland are in school buildings which are in "good" or "satisfactory" condition, according to national statistics published today.

However, more than 12 per cent of pupils in Scotland are in school buildings rated “poor” or “bad” when it comes to their suitability for delivering the curriculum in Scotland.

This number of schools in good or satisfactory condition represents a marked increase since 2007, although the statisticians involved advise that new recording procedures mean that care should be taken when comparing 2019 with previous years.

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The proportion of schools reported as being in “good” – the highest rating possible – or “satisfactory” condition in Scotland has increased to 88.3 per cent, up from 86.6 per cent in 2018 and 61 per cent in 2007.

However, only 28.5 per cent of school buildings are deemed good, with 59.8 per cent satisfactory, 11.4 per cent poor and 0.2 per cent bad, the lowest rating.

This amounts to four school buildings in Scotland which are bad – up from three last year but down from 17 in 2013 – and 284 which are poor, down from 449 in 2013,

The figures also record the number of pupils in good, satisfactory, poor or bad school buildings. The proportion in schools in good or satisfactory condition was 89.6 per cent, up from 88.2 per cent in 2018.

The publication of School Estates Statistics 2019 by Scotland’s chief statistician shows that the proportion of pupils educated in schools in poor or bad condition has decreased from 36.6 per cent of all pupils (around 257,000) in 2007 to 10.3 per cent of all pupils (around 71,000) in 2019.

There were 1,046 pupils in bad school buildings at the time of recording, although in 2013 the figure was 5,889. Some 266,569 of pupils (38.9 per cent) were in schools in good condition, 347,374 in schools in satisfactory condition (50.7 per cent) and 69,536 in schools in poor condition (10.1 per cent).

The figures also show the “suitability” of school buildings, which is “a measure of whether a school is fit for the purpose of delivering the education curriculum”. While 86 per cent of school buildings are good or satisfactory by this measure, only 32.7 per cent receive the top rating of good, while 13.5 per cent are poor and 0.4 per cent bad.

The figures also that 12.3 per cent of pupils were in school buildings deemed poor or bad for delivering the curriculum, at the time of recording.

In November 2017 new guidance was provided to local authorities on measuring school condition. Figures recorded using this guidance were published for the first time in the 2019 School Estates Core Facts Survey.

The survey report advises: “Differences between this and the previous guidance mean that a school’s condition rating may have changed when there has been little or no change to the physical condition itself. Therefore, caution is advised when comparing the 2019 figures with previous years.”

First minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted this morning that there had been “great progress” but there was “still more to do” as she travelled to Peterhead Academy in Aberdeenshire to announce which schools would be rebuilt under a £1 billion programme to improve school buildings.

Today's figures showed that 928 schools across the country had been built or substantially refurbished since 2007-08, including 81 in the past year.

The first minister said this was "great progress", but added there is "still more to do".

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: "Official guidance contained within the report clearly warns against comparing figures from this year to previous years. Schools may not have improved at all, just been recategorised."

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart said: "It's alarming to see that 70,000 Scottish pupils are being taught in schools that have been graded poor quality or bad working environments."

She added: "It's disgraceful that the condition of our schools could distract from learning and prove unpleasant workplaces for teachers."

Details of the schools to be built in the first phase of Learning Estate Investment Programme were revealed today, with the government to invest between £220 and £275 million on this part of the work, which will see 26 schools replaced. The new buildings could open by 2022-23, the government said.

A replacement for Woodmill High School in Dunfermline, which was badly damaged by fire, has been included, with the new site taking the form of a community campus also including St Columba's High.

Ms Sturgeon said about 50,000 students across Scotland would benefit from the first phase of work, involving schools in 11 different local authorities.

The first minister said: "The national statistics published today reveal that, even before today's announcement, Scotland's school estate has never been in better condition, with a record percentage in good or satisfactory condition. That is a result of sustained investment and we will now build on that."

Ms Sturgeon announced the first phase of the school building programme on a trip to Peterhead Academy, accompanied by education secretary John Swinney.

Several of the projects planned will bring together nurseries, schools and specialist centres for yopung people with additional support needs in multi-purpose campuses for pupils aged three to 18.

Mr Swinney said: "The first phase of the £1 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme prioritises schools in need of updating or where there are significant capacity issues, as identified by local authorities, to ensure rapid progress where most required."

Gail Macgregor, of local authorities body Cosla, said councils would be contributing at least £2 billion to the programme overall.

In the first phase of the programme, a new Peterhead Community Campus will be built in Aberdeenshire, including replacements for Dales Park Primary, Meethill Primary, Peterhead Academy and Anna Ritchie School.

In East Lothian, a new Wallyford High and Whitecraig Primary will be built, while in East Renfrewshire Neilston Primary and St Thomas's Primary  will be replaced.

Pupils in Edinburgh will get a new Currie Community High, with a Castlebay Campus planned for the Western Isles to replace Castlebay High, Castlebay Primary and Eoligarry Primary.

A campus building for youngsters aged three to 18 will be built in the Highlands, to replace Tain Royal Academy, Knockbreck Primary, Craighill Primary and St Duthus School, while Midlothian will get a replacement for Beeslack Community High.

In North Ayrshire, a new Ardrossan Community Learning and Innovation Hub is to be built to take the place of Ardrossan Academy and Winton Primary, and in South Ayrshire the new Maybole Community Campus will replace Carrick Academy, Cairn Primary, Gardenrose Primary and St Cuthbert's Primary.

And in West Lothian, a new Beatlie additional support needs (ASN) campus will be built.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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