Successful and struggling schools benefit least from capital investment, research shows. Jon Slater reports
SCHOOLS at the top and bottom of exam tables benefit less from spending on buildings, according to government-funded research.
Heads of schools with extremely good or poor exam results believe capital investment has little impact on the behaviour or achievement of their pupils, it found.
But for those in the middle of the league table, even relatively low spending on buildings could have a significant impact, particularly on teacher morale. Capital investment also has a positive impact on pupil motivation and behaviour.
The research was based on interviews with heads in three education authorities. Heads of low-attaining schools "struggled to see how capital investment, on its own, could help to improve pupil performance", the report said.
One community school told researchers: "The school is in such a deprived area, is so stigmatised and has such low attainment levels, that even the complete rebuilding programme that was completed a number of years ago had little impact on performance."
Building Better Performance was written by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Department for Education and Skills.
It suggests that it may be most efficient to target investment at the bulk of schools toward the middle of league tables. "Headteachers in schools with either extremely high or low levels of attainment reported a weaker link between capital and performance than headteachers in schools with more average attainment levels," the report says.
But a spokeswoman for the DfES said the findings would not deter the Government from investing in schools where the research suggests investment is less effective.
Primary heads were also sceptical about the extent to which capital investment helped improve standards, but statistical evidence suggested that it had a greater effect than in secondaries.
Analysis of capital investment and test results in nearly 2,000 schools in England shows that spending on curriculum-related infrastructure had the largest impact.
New science blocks and computer suites were more beneficial than general repairs and refurbishment. This type of investment was more likely to be carried out by schools which performed slightly better than average as they attracted extra pupils and therefore the resources needed for projects.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said: "It is the quality of teaching that matters. If you have poor teaching in brand spanking new buildings you will have poor results. If you have good teaching in brand new buildings you will have spectacularly good results."
"Building Better Performance: an empirical assessment of the learning and other impacts of schools capital investment"www.dfes.gov.ukresearch
IN WITH NEW
a Pound 60 million contract to modernise Lewisham schools is to be re advertised because of lack of interest. Lewisham council believes an emphasis on refurbishment stopped firms from applying. It has now increased the amount of new building work to make the contract more tempting.