“Shabby” schools are failing students and teachers, says specialist supplier

The head of one of the UK’s leading education sector suppliers has claimed that a growing number of “shabby schools” across the UK are not only failing pupils but are contributing to the lack of new entrants to the teaching profession.

New research by British Thornton, the UK’s largest education furniture manufacturer, has shown that cuts to funding in the sector have led to significant reductions in investment in learning environments, to the detriment of both students and teachers.

The research, which surveyed 198 schools across the UK on their spending intention during the current academic year, has revealed that overall spending on educational furniture will reduce by £3.3m in 2016/17 in a market that is usually worth £200m annually.

The data also reveals that fewer schools than last year are likely to be in a position to utilise funds from their developed capital formula (DFC) allocation for the purpose of furniture procurement. Continued pressure on funding has seen many schools prioritise spending on what British Thornton calls the “Ofsted essentials” of desks, chairs and storage while spending in categories such as play space, soft furnishing and general refurbishment are largely being ignored.

Ofsted has been a major driver behind school spending decisions in recent years, according to British Thornton. The firm said:

“To maintain inspection results against ever-shrinking budgets, many are concentrating on areas that deliver direct pupil attainment improvements. This means simply ensuring there are enough tables and chairs for pupils to use – rather than considering any improvements to the wider learning environment.”

According to RIBA, only five per cent of 60,000 buildings in 18,000 schools in England are in top condition, performing as intended and operating efficiently.

Gerard Toplass, chief executive officer of British Thornton, said:

“The education marketplace has seen significant political interference over the last few years that has had a massive impact on both the structure and funding models for schools. Budgets are being slashed and overall market uncertainty is having a hugely detrimental impact on the standards of education being delivered to students.”

He continued:

“We must remember that the pupils themselves need to be the number one priority for the sake of this country’s future. Schools need to be able to focus on delivering a first class education and therefore improving standards, results and ultimately career and life prospects for pupils.”