Issues with facilities ‘negatively impact learning environment for pupils’

More than half of teachers believe issues with buildings and facilities negatively impact the learning environment for their pupils, a survey suggests.

A poll of more than 8,000 National Education Union (NEU) members in England and Wales found that more than two in three (68%) teachers reported working in buildings which have leaks from the rain.

One in three (33%) teacher respondents said overheating in the summer was a “severe” issue in their workplace, while 16% said being “too cold” in the winter was a severe problem.

The findings were released on the final day of the NEU’s annual conference in Bournemouth.

NEU members were asked which issues related to building conditions and maintenance were causing problems at their place of work.

Members were asked how often issues with buildings and facilities affected the learning environment for their pupils.

Nearly a fifth (18%) said this was usually or always the case, while nearly two in five (39%) said this was sometimes the case.

The poll, carried out in February, suggests that 45% reported mould or damp in their workplace, while 41% reported signs of vermin or pests.

One survey respondent said: “Carpets in the corridors are sodden with rainwater coming in through the roof, damp and mould everywhere, holes in ceilings, blocked drains cause flooding.

“Pupil toilets have taken almost six weeks to refurb, therefore the classroom was out of action too.”

Another said: “The conditions have led to diagnosis of asthma in staff and pupils and led to long-term sickness due to lung infection and exacerbation of asthma.”

One respondent said: “There are not enough rooms for the interventions and support our students need. I have delivered interventions sitting on the floor of corridors or in cloakrooms.”

Another said: “We had no boiler (heating/hot water/access to school kitchen) for eight weeks before Christmas. Staff and kids were freezing. Unable to provide hot meals.”

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the NEU, said: “There are limits to a culture of ‘make do and mend’, and the line that should not be crossed is when it comes to our nation’s children.

“As this survey shows, pupils are routinely being taught in conditions that have a negative impact on their learning and could even impact their health.

“This is by no means the fault of school leaders, who are doing the best they can with the facilities and budgets they have.”

He added: “Leaks and ventilation are a chronic issue for many. The fact is that this Government has neglected school and college buildings for 14 years.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Schools and sixth form colleges will benefit from £1.8 billion this financial year to help maintain their buildings, taking the total amount of funding to over £17 billion since 2015, and it is up to responsible bodies, such as local authorities and trusts, to make their own decisions on investment in their schools each year.

“Just last week we also confirmed 733 schools and sixth form colleges will benefit from the £450 million Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) in 2024-25, and our School Rebuilding Programme is transforming buildings at over 500 schools over the next decade.

“We offer additional emergency support on a case-by-case basis to schools which face significant issues that could risk building closures – and in just a matter of months we have completed our identification programme and confirmed how we will fund removal of Raac from our schools and colleges for good.”