Essential GEMS for schools and academies

    Published: 06 November 2020

    Whilst schools have been focusing on the cleanliness of their buildings along with bubbles, spaces, ventilation and one way systems due to the COVID pandemic, I wanted to expand on this good work and bring your attention to the updated Good Estates Management for schools (GEMS). This toolkit gives comprehensive advice to schools and responsible bodies to help manage school buildings and land, and has just been updated by the DfE. Managing your buildings and land effectively will help you save money and ensure you have a healthy, safe and sustainable school environment.

    The website has links to various documents and tools including the benefits of good estate management and also provides an organisational self-assessment tool to help you assess your current approach to estate management.

    The Benefits of Good Estate Management gives you guidance on taking a strategic approach to managing your organisation including:

    Saving money by:

    • reducing running costs
    • getting better deals & spreading costs
    • making better investment decisions
    • prioritising your maintenance

    Having safer and healthier schools with:

    • fewer accidents
    • improved morale and outcomes

    Run sustainable and efficient schools that:

    • use less energy and water
    • increase environmental awareness

    The tools and checklists available include the following:

    • the benefits of strategic estate management
    • a self-assessment tool
    • a guide to strategic estate documents
    • guidance on good estate governance
    • a top 10 of estates checks for governing bodies/boards
    • the information you need to know about your estate
    • an introduction to condition surveys
    • guidance on how to begin estate performance management and benchmarking
    • tips to reduce energy and water use in schools
    • guidance on how to prioritise maintenance
    • a maintenance risk based tool
    • a compliance tracker
    • an estate projects checklist
    • details of Sector organisations for further information

    A good starting point is to complete the self-assessment tool, which will help identify where you are following good practice and areas which require further development.  It will ask a number of questions across 12 areas of estates management to help provide assurance that the estate is being managed effectively.  The purpose of the tool is to help you develop strategic estate management in your organisation so you can add comments, evidence and proposed actions against questions, as appropriate to help you identify actions to improve.  Whilst answering each one of the questions you can click on the guidance link (similar to that on the SFVS/school resource management self-assessment tools) to review relevant areas of the GEMS guidance.  This will help you develop these areas.  This tool will produce an action plan based on your responses in the self-assessment.

    There is also clear guidance on creating an asset management plan which is a short to medium term plan detailing and prioritising what maintenance and actions need to be taken to meet the requirements of your estates management strategy. The aim being that you should plan as much maintenance work as you can rather than carrying out works reactively.  It is good practice to allocate planned preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance budgets in the region of a 70:30 ratio (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA))

    There are some schools who utilise licensed software on an annual subscription, but for those schools who do not have access to these, there is also a comprehensive compliance tracker which provides an example maintenance and testing schedule to support schools.  This tool covers the Health & Safety requirements for most schools – though some schools may have further specific requirements for their individual buildings.  Schools will be able to enter all contractor information that are used for maintenance, inspections and/or other Health & Safety activities.  The tracker lists the most common statutory and recommended maintenance and inspection requirements for schools.  It also contains a work plan which shows what work is due within 2 months, 6 months etc. with any work overdue highlighted in red cells.

    The Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) provides schools with a one stop shop for providing you with clear guidance on managing your premises and land.  There are regular H&S updates in the SBM briefing sessions which will keep schools updated on changes to regulations, the next briefing will be on 24th November at 10.00 a.m.

    For advice on this or anything else related to business management, get in touch.

    Call us on 01438 843299 or email

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