A refurbished school makes children and staff feel good, but does not guarantee better results. Sarah Cassidy reports
IMPROVING school buildings can boost the test scores of the youngest pupils but has little effect on older students, according to government-commissioned research.
Infants and the youngest secondary pupils did better in schools which spent the most on repairs. But boosting capital investment has little effect on A-level, GCSE and the national test results of 11-year-olds, the study by management consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers found.
While any improvement in performance due to building work was small, its perceived impact was great, the study concluded. All heads interviewed by consultants were convinced that the repairs boosted performance by improving teachers' morale and pupils' motivation.
Building improvements also could mean less time lost moving between classrooms, heads said.
The research, the first major UK attempt to measure the relationship between capital spending and results, was published by the Department for Education and Employment to coincide with the announcement of pound;4 billion for school refurbishment.
Last week Education Secretary David Blunkett announced that 650 schols will be rebuilt or refurbished over the next three years. More than 7,000 other schools will also get new classrooms, roofs, labs or heating.
The research included a review of more than 50 previous studies, visits to 27 schools and an analysis of capital spending and pupil performance from 1,916 English schools.
The analysis found some evidence of a link between capital spending and exam results, but the relationship was not always positive and not always statistically significant.
NO MORE LEAKING ROOFS
Alan Mooney, headteacher of St James the Less RC primary, Rowtenstall, Lancashire, told researchers that his old school, a 19th-century building, had suffered from vandalism and break-ins.
"Equipment was locked away at night for safety. The roof leaked and classrooms had to have buckets standing in them. The new school, built five years ago, is warmer and quieter with no stone corridors and stairs. No wonder morale is better!"
Nicki Bennett, headteacher of Northleach primary in Gloucestershire, reported that the biggest gain from her new building "has been cutting down on the time lost through the movement of pupils around the site. This is estimated to amount to 45 minutes a day per child."