Key Summary Document
from the Minutes of the Public Meeting regarding the Priority Schools Building Programme at Chagford CE Primary School on 4th November 2014
The full minutes can be viewed as a pdf at the bottom of the summary document.
Teaching and Learning
The current buildings present a number of challenges to enabling learning. We have been asked by EFA to present our vision for the best possible learning environment. We consulted with all staff to consider this. We believe our pupils and staff deserve, among other things:
• Flexible classrooms that are set up for 21st century teaching, with fit for purpose IT provision
• Teaching spaces that are neither too warm nor too cold
• Fresh air and ventilation that meet current regulations
• More wall space in our classrooms for displaying our learning
• More natural daylight, not electric lighting for long periods of the day
• Fit for purpose toilets and changing rooms, to modern standards of privacy. Better access for disabled pupils or staff who require these facilities. Our cloakrooms no longer meet modern fire safety standards and access to our disabled toilets involve a trip outside to gain level access.
• Better vehicle access and parking arrangements for site, so that staff and visitors can come to site safely
• Better freedom for our pupils to access all of our outside learning spaces – a playground so close to a public road brings challenges, and our wonderful amphitheater is currently next to a car park.
• Vehicle access for our catering and other delivery vehicles
• An environment that supports passive supervision, allowing pupils the freedom to access our learning spaces safely and securely
• Outdoor learning spaces for all classes, that can be used all year round
• Less wasted space in corridors
• A hub for our learning and interventions – many of our intervention spaces are currently removed from our main teaching and learning space, and are inadequately lit, heated and ventilated.
• A hall that is big enough to support our new curriculum for Key Stage 2 PE, and big enough to hold all our children for school meals and plays, and with better storage.
• A hall that has modern IT provision, acoustics and projection facilities, to support learning and community use.
• A hall that has appropriate facilities for community use, for example, ease of access outside the school day, appropriate toilets and changing facilities, a kitchen suitable for community use (school kitchen equipment is not appropriate for community use without prior H&S training)
• A better space for staff to work, and a space for staff to eat and relax, both of which can be used by other groups if needed to make our space as flexible as possible
• Reception and office spaces that ensures a welcoming reception, privacy and confidentiality, security for our pupils, and good visibility of visitors to our site.
• The provision of first aid facilities for our pupils that afford privacy and supervision if required
• The vegetable garden, cob oven, bee hotel, our lovely trees and amphitheater have all been included in our brief. Funding is provided to reinstate the football field and running track to their existing size.
Capital funding is the responsibility of DCC, and revenue budgets are delegated to Schools. Devon County Council retains responsibility for maintenance issues that would place the school in threat of closure for example, asbestos disturbance, leaks or unsafe structures. They are also responsible for providing spaces for growing schools.
Responsibility and funding for all other ongoing minor repairs and maintenance, and modification to schools to embrace 21st century learning lie within school budgets. From our revenue budget, we must decide what should be spent on teaching staff, teaching assistants and interventions, materials and resources for classrooms, school trips, or cleaning, heating, and building maintenance. Our funds are based on how many children we have within school. There are not separate pots of money for pupils, electricity, maintenance etc. So high maintenance costs negatively impact how much we can spend on our teaching and learning.
In 2011 the government commissioned a review of School Capital Funding, which concluded that the Department for Education would no longer allocate money to local authorities for school building projects, but instead, deliver the capital projects centrally, through the Education Funding Agency.
In 2011, the EFA asked all local authorities to submit condition reports on all school buildings. The then Headteacher and Chair of Governors consented to being included in this review. These condition reports were independently verified by surveyors appointed by EFA. The EFA assessed the schools against a 57 page output specification, setting out minimum technical standards for schools around lighting, heating, performance, low carbon consumption, sustainability, BREEAM standards and the life of buildings. Chagford School buildings were prioritized as being one of the worst 260 school buildings in the country against these standards and the local authority and school were notified in 2012. This represents an investment of some £2.6M into Chagford School and its community.
Having identified which school buildings required funding, the EFA then considered how best to deliver a programme. Previous PFI (Private Finance Initiative) programmes had presented problems for schools in operating day to day. PFI schools frequently came with locked in contracts with IT or catering via a private finance provider. In 2012 no PFI financiers came forward. In addition, many of the PFI contractors were not interested in projects outside the major conurbations. The EFA took the decision to provide capital grants for a new Priority Schools Building Programme.
Many of the schools within this programme represent relatively small capital projects and following consultation with the market place, it was decided that these projects would be procured under a Regional Framework. Under this framework, two contractors enter a mini competition on price and quality, to design and build a new school, which must meet the minimum performance standards for all schools. The design process will be in conjunction with the school. Some elements of the process have not yet been finalized. The EFA intends to procure the regional framework for Devon in December, with a view to entering into contract in July 2015 for a 12 month build contract. The school building designs will be subject to local planning guidance and standards that Dartmoor Park Authority set down.
The existing school is 1361m2 including our preschool room. The proposed school will be 1335 m2, including a dedicated space for our foundation stage unit. It has been a dream of the school to combine the Reception classroom space and the preschool space and operate fully as a foundation stage space. In the current building, this would cost approximately £20,000 to deliver, with no DCC funding available.
The small difference in size between a new school and the current school will be more than offset by the significant amount of circulation space in the existing school that could be saved with better design.
All school buildings must meet modern space standards, as detailed in Building Bulletin 103. Under this standard our existing hall would go from 115m2 (current size) to 170m2. The space currently provided for our preschool would in fact increase, from 94 m2 to 124m2.
The Foundation stage unit will be included in the scheme. We are satisfied that a building for 210 plus 30 spaces for the foundation stage unit will meet the needs of our current and future pupils well into the future. In the first year, there will be approximately 80 places unfilled, more than enough to meet the impact of planned housing developments in the town.
The exact location of the school will be subject to topographical and geological surveys. Currently the schools playing fields are owned by DCC; the remainder of the land is owned by the trustees (Exeter Diocesan Board of Finance Limited). If the school is reconfigured in any way, ownership will be reconfigured accordingly; wherever the playing fields are DCC will own them, and Diocesan Trustees will hold the rest. No land will be sold off.
Chagford is one of 260 schools in the [Priority Schools Building] programme, which is addressing the needs of those school buildings in the worst condition in the country.
In 2013 we completed urgent repairs to the roof, which was leaking and which involved the removal of asbestos which could have been affected by these leaks. There is a still a significant amount of asbestos in the building fabric. We commissioned this work prior to being notified if the PSBP would go ahead, and when. We believe that all children deserve dry, safe buildings and we could not postpone this work on the basis of what “may be” in the future.
The current school buildings are becoming increasingly challenging to maintain and improve against a backdrop of shrinking school maintenance budgets. (The DCC budget for 2014 is £7M to address the maintenance needs of 280 schools in the whole county, against the proposed investment of £2.6M for Chagford School.) The EFA has set clear performance criteria of which sustainability was a key element. The current buildings cannot meet these criteria through refurbishment and cannot meet the needs that the new curriculum changes and educational needs of the school demand, and on which we will be judged by Ofsted.
The governing body is committed to ensuring the best possible educational environment for our pupils. We cannot morally justify turning away £2.6M. We will do our best to engage with parents, pupils and the wider community as much as we are able. Thank you.
The full minutes can be viewed here.