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It’s September again (just), and school maintenance is certainly not at the back of anyone’s mind at the moment. Nobody can have failed to miss the recent back-to-back headlines about RAAC planks and school safety.

Debates in parliament have been rumbling for years about the risks faced by not just schools, but other public buildings. Schools in particular though, have been identified as particularly at risk.

Not The New Kid in School

However, these latest problems are not new:

  • In 2003 and several reports subsequently, there were reports issued by the audit office and others. The reports highlighted the fact that schools had been left debt-laden by repayments to PFI firms. This in turn led to a lack of cash to spend on maintenance and repair of existing assets.
  • In 2016, schools in Scotland hit the headlines after nine tons of masonry collapsed at a school in Edinburgh. Many other public buildings were found to be defective. Reports subsequently highlighted the need for public procurement to focus on quality not just speed and cost.
  • On 23rd May this year, a debate in parliament covered the parlous state of school buildings and the potential risk to life resulting from them.

Although these are issues very much focussed on the public sector, it should be remembered that they may not be exclusively public sector problems. In 2020 we reported on RAAC roof planks as an issue in many types of building, particularly schools.

What to do?

The key here is monitoring and management. RAAC roof planks did not suddenly all fail on 1st September, and in many cases, they may well be fine for years to come. But unless the risks are assessed, monitored and managed by a construction professional, you will never know. And the same is true for any building-related issue.

The first thing to do is to ensure your planned maintenance programme is up to date and has been prepared by a qualified RICS surveyor. A small investment in a survey now can help you prioritise issues by urgency and cost, and ensure minor issues don’t turn into major ones in future.

Of course, paying for external advice can seem daunting, particularly if there’s no immediate or obvious benefit. But that advice can help to ensure you save money and reduce risk, maybe even save lives, in the medium-to-long term.

A good surveyor will also be able to draw on a network of trusted suppliers and use industry knowledge to save you money on any maintenance costs. They will be able to help you prioritise work and help you secure funding for projects. At Chawton Hill, we’ve helped several colleges and schools find funding for their projects from various funds.

Ensure you have the best possible advice on your side. Minimise risks and costs from school building maintenance and repair, get in touch with us today.