Building Handbook for Maintained Schools

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Our Building Handbook for Maintained Schools provides staff in maintained schools with a point of reference to help them carry out their duties as premises managers. It has been created for schools that the local authority has responsibility for repairing and maintaining (although the responsibility is often delegated or shared with the school or governors).

The handbook includes legal and practical advice to ensure schools are providing a safe building environment for staff, visitors and pupils. It should be read in conjunction with both existing local authority and school policies.

In addition, the DfE Guide for Schools – Good Estate Management for Schools has tools to help you make sure you have the right skills, processes and policies in place.

Take a look at the information below, or in our Building Handbook for Maintained Schools [PDF, 1.22Mb] for more details. (Our Handbook for Schools PDF is not in an accessible format. However, all of the most important information is included on this webpage. If you require this information in a different format, please contact us.)

Further information

People (Capital & Buildings) Team

The People (Capital & Buildings) Team focus on the strategic development of school buildings. We provide advice to premises managers and act as the first point of contact for building and site related issues.

Our central responsibilities include:

  • production and review of the asset management data
  • strategic review and development of the school buildings estate
  • bids for capital funding
  • delivery of the approved capital building programme

Our responsibilities to schools include guidance and support on:

  • Devolved Formula Capital grant (DFC)
  • Asset Management and related building development issues
  • access and inclusion
  • supply of school places

The planning and delivery of a building project is complex and can be hazardous. The Self Help guidance notes detail the procedure schools need to undertake when carrying out alterations and improvements to school buildings. The Access (Capital and Buildings) Team will assist you with your understanding and delivery of these requirements and your statutory duties.

An Asset Management Plan (AMP) is a record of the type, number and fitness for purpose of a specified set of buildings. In the case of the education sector, each local authority produces an Asset Management Plan for the buildings and sites under its control. Copies of the current AMP for each school are available from the Access (Capital & Buildings) Team. The DfE have contracted Capita Symonds to undertake a condition survey of all schools.

The AMP data provides key data to assist in strategic planning for buildings and school places.

Repairs & Maintenance

Through the Scheme for Financing Schools, day-to-day repair and maintenance of the premises is the school’s responsibility. Specific duties to meet your statutory responsibilities are set out in Section 4 of the Building Handbook for Maintained Schools. Financial provision to meet these and associated responsibilities is included in your annual revenue budget.


Responsibility for capital issues identified in schools is shared between the local authority and the school. Schools receive a Devolved Formula Capital (DFC) grant to invest in their buildings.

Plant and Equipment Testing

As part of the Scheme for Financing Schools, you now have responsibility for all those elements of building maintenance covered by statute.

Each year, you should undertake a risk assessment of what equipment and appliances you have on site, where they are located and whether or not they need to be tested.

The community use of school sites and buildings by organisations such as:

  • sports clubs
  • preschools
  • Guide/Scout groups
  • the delivery of extended services

is a well- established and an important function of the site. It is essential that an appropriate agreement for the type of use concerned is put in place to protect all parties. Such agreements do not just cover rights of occupation but can make sure insurance, indemnities and other necessary issues are covered.

In some cases there will be more repair or replacement works needed than can be funded each year. It is important, therefore, to have a system that prioritises work to reflect its importance against agreed and unambiguous criteria. This will help ensure that limited resources are directed towards the most urgent needs.

Managing a Project

In undertaking the sourcing of any building or building services related works, we recommend certain procedures be followed to ensure that the works and project are a success. All schools should ensure that they adhere to CDM regulations 2015.

Repairs and Maintenance

Emergency items, day-to-day repairs, cyclical maintenance, servicing and testing of equipment is relatively straightforward and can generally be resolved within a short period of time.

Asset Management & Construction (Property Services) can arrange repairs and maintenance for you under a Service Level Agreement, via either framework contractors or contractors selected or recommended by yourselves. For further details please refer to the SLA Core Offer.

Where the local authority is the employer (community, voluntary controlled, community special schools and maintained nursery schools), it may give a direction concerning the health and safety of persons (including pupils) on the school’s premises or taking part in any school activities elsewhere. Under section 29(5) of the Education Act 2002, Governing Board of such schools must comply with any such direction from the local authority.

The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 & The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 outline the need for employers to manage health and safety by ensuring that the arrangements they have in place are planned, organised, controlled, monitored and reviewed appropriately.

Many of the features of effective health and safety management are indistinguishable from the sound management practices that can be found in quality systems, business excellence models and financial planning.

There is no model solution to problems with the security of school premises. Every school is different and its needs should be assessed accordingly. Type and condition of buildings, location and site layout are relevant but the human factor is paramount.

The Risks

If there is no evidence or history in your school of a threat to the children, staff or valuables, you may conclude that security measures need not be extreme. The measures implemented should be proportionate to the perceived risk & certain standards should be regarded as minimum for every school:

  • No person may enter the school buildings without your knowledge or consent
  • DBS disclosures are checked for visitors/contractors with the following exceptions: visitors/ parents who have business with the head teacher, or other staff or who have brief contact with children will have a member of staff present; visitors or contractors who come on site only to carry out emergency repairs or service equipment and who would not be expected to be left unsupervised on school premises
  • Children, parents and staff are not put at significant risk by being isolated from others
  • There is an agreed and workable action plan to deal with any incident or threat

You are strongly urged to identify the problems relevant to your school before deciding on any additional measures. To help with this process we have produced a Security Risk Assessment. (Please see appendix F for a copy of the pro-forma.) You may find the exercise useful even though you have no specific plans to change existing arrangements.

The Remedies

We operate a security and alarm call out service for all properties. This is good value and worthy of consideration, particularly if your survey indicates that your premises are vulnerable to intruders. Please contact the NLC CCTV team for further advice in this regard.

In terms of personal safety, you should include a lone worker risk assessment, include the findings in your school’s Health and Safety Policy and ensure this is made known and available to all personnel.

More generally, measures to combat security threats depend so much on specific circumstances. Our advice is to identify the risks and then come to us for guidance on the best options if you need assistance. It does not necessarily involve extravagant expensive solutions. Please contact the Access (Capital and Buildings) Team for further advice.

The purpose of an emergency management plan is firstly to allow consideration of various types of emergency and how the school is placed to deal with them, and secondly to give the school community confidence when faced with a crisis.

All LA’s must have emergency plans that link into a national strategy for dealing with crises and which include all of the emergency services. Ideally, a school’s plan will fit into the LA’s.

Recent Legislation

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 place responsibilities on duty holders to manage asbestos risks within their premises. Under normal circumstances in Health and Safety Law, the duty holder is the employer. This means that ultimate responsibility for health and safety lies with the employer, being the Local Authority or, in the case of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools, the Governing Board.

The Climate Act 2006 laid out the Government’s intentions to reduce carbon omissions across the UK imposing very strict conditions on the energy performance requirements for buildings. It is important to take careful note of guidance from numerous sources and advisory bodies who have looked into ways of improving the efficiency of existing accommodation and associated energy systems. All school buildings over 500m2 gross internal area are required to display energy certificate (DEC). It is also good practice to display a DEC for buildings below 500 m2. The Carbon Management Team can undertake assessments and produce DEC’s.

Disability Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 (superseding the Disability Discrimination Act) protects disabled people (among others) from unlawful discrimination. It provides responsibilities for Governing Board, Premises Management Committees, LAs and others. It covers all areas of activity and the whole school community, pupils, parents, employees (teaching and non- teaching staff) governors and any other visitors to the site. The duty also requires reasonable planned provision for activities beyond the premises (eg school visits) to ensure inclusion.