The Schools Programme have been involved in an international pilot study with the OECD, looking at Evaluating Quality in Educational Spaces (EQES).
They have been working in collaboration with 3 local authorities, and 6 schools across Scotland over the past few months. Recently, the Schools Programme met with the participating countries – Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and England — to share findings and report on the results of the pilot study in Scotland.
A key priority of this work was to develop user-friendly and cost effective tools which would capture the experiences and opinions of users in their school building. The purpose was to gain insight into areas of schools that work well, and those areas which don’t work so well, in order to inform the current use of school buildings, as well as future school building programmes.
Four research tools were tested — (1) a background questionnaire involving headteachers, (2) a background questionnaire involving local authorities, (3) staff and student questionnaires, and (4) focus groups.
Some elements of the study were more successful than others. The background questionnaires covered a wide variety of useful and relevant issues, however there is scope to improve elements of these in terms of format and definitions, in order to generate really useful feedback.
The staff and student questionnaires provided some key issues for each school, which were useful to inform the focus groups, but again there is scope to improve these.
The focus groups provided directly relevant feedback from the school users, covering a wide range of issues. They highlighted some school-specific issues, and issues of relevance to the local authority — but there are some common themes across the schools that may require wider consideration.
Some examples of school-specific issues include the upgrading and maintaining of equipment (e.g. computers, clocks, books), perceptions of fairness between staff and students in the school, access to drinking water, and congested corridors. These were largely issues raised by the students.
Some issues of particular note to local authorities were in relation to IT/internet contracts, quality of equipment (practical and technological), storage, and size of some spaces.
Common issues across a number of schools include quality of furniture, environmental comfort within the school, soundproofing, quality of specialist spaces, and wider briefing issues.
The findings from the pilot schools have been fed back to the schools and local authorities.
Having identified a strong desire amongst local authorities and Scottish Government to more widely utilize post occupancy tools, and create a bank of good practice in Scotland, we are looking at ways for the tools to be adapted for wider use in Scotland.
If you would like to find out more about this project, you can visit the OECD website here