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Capital Advisers Programme

Four out of five trusts do not have sufficient data on the condition of their buildings. This is according to the ESFA’s recent evaluation of their Capital Advisers Programme across 70 trusts.

They also found that, where trusts had taken specialist advice on their estates management processes, significant savings were achievable.


What were the key findings?

It is important to remember that the pilot scheme and phase 1 programme involved a relatively small number of trusts, which were not selected to be a representative cross section of the sector. Therefore, the findings are not taken to be ‘typical’ of the sector. The findings in relation to the sample included:

  • Uptake of GEMS guidance – we know from the pilot that academy trusts who use GEMS guidance were in receipt of statistically fewer recommendations. 
  • Condition surveys – recommendations to commission condition surveys across their estate were made to over three-quarters of academy trusts in the pilot and at the revisit just under half of MATs remain non-compliant. 
  • Asset management plans – most academy trusts at the pilot stage did not have asset management plans, but by the revisit, over a quarter of these academy trusts had a plan in place. 
  • Effective project planning – this had the highest average number of recommendations at both pilot and revisit stages. However, on average, this had the largest number of improvements since the pilot. 
  • Estate maintenance – since the pilot, academy trusts have made improvements across the maintenance and operation of their estate, particularly targeting better health and safety and compliance within their buildings.”  

The findings highlight the importance of having condition surveys, asset management plans and estates strategies as also set out in the government’s Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) guidance. 


Condition surveys

The importance of building condition surveys was emphasised. It is important to understand the value of current, complete and consistent data on the condition of the school estate. This data can drive planned preventative maintenance programmes and long term budget planning. Assessing the condition of the estate will also help trust leaders to allocate funds for future maintenance work based on need rather than want.

Knowing how to commission condition surveys and analyse the findings is critical to informed decision making and effective estates management. Factors you will need to consider include:

  • Detail of survey required
  • Frequency of surveys and how to refresh the data
  • Limitations to access and exclusions from the condition survey reports
  • How to store, aggregate and analyse large data sets across trust portfolios
  • Accuracy of budget costs for identified works


Condition surveys are the building block from which you can develop your trust Asset Management Plan.

Asset Management Plans

According to the ESFA pilot, most trusts did not have a sufficient Asset Management Plan (AMP) in place. The AMP will help you make the best strategic estates management decisions as well as safeguard school occupants and obtain the best value for money. Having an effective asset management plan should also minimise unforeseen building issues. Your asset management plan should include:

  • All data on building condition, suitability and sufficiency
  • Policies and procedures related to the trust estate
  • Organisational structure, roles and responsibilities
  • Governance and decision-making processes

Your AMP should also be linked back to an overall estates strategy or vision to ensure that the estate is delivering the required services aligned to the trust’s overall goals, whether this is academic achievement, sustainability or community impact.


Want to learn more?

Barker is a trusted property consultant to the education sector and strategic partner to leading sector bodies including Confederation of School Trusts (CST), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL).

Watch our webinar where Rob Gould and Matt Isherwood provide a refresher of GEMS focussing on the following areas; 

  • Condition surveys – how to commission them and how to interpret the data
  • Asset Management Plans – how to develop your strategic AMP
  • Estates Strategy and procurement tips to achieve best value

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