Addressing health and safety issues relating to the school building

Reflection – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
At the primary school I have been asked to deal with a health and safety issue because of my background and my role as an LA councillor. There are problems with the brickwork on the building and scaffolding has been put on a large area of the school. This is causing some access problems, cuts off some of the playground and barriers have been placed outside the school to protect it. This has caused problems with the security of those barriers and parking at the school.

What happened?
I have been in touch with the LA on more than one occasion to get clarification of the plan to identify the work that is required and timelines for doing it and how to resolve the problems with space and safety of the playground with the scaffolding there. I have also asked twice for the barriers on the road to be made secure and to be aligned in such a way that parking is not possible in that area.

What lessons were learnt?
The issues haven’t been resolved yet and getting answers from the Local Authority is taking time. This teaches me that raising questions and addressing problems, if it requires LA support, needs to be started sooner rather than later.

Community school buildings and land are owned by the local authority (LA). The land at foundation schools is owned by the governing body or trustees. In Voluntary Aided (VA) schools, the school buildings and land are usually owned by trustees, although the Local Authority may own the playing field land. It is assumed in this case that the school in question is a community school. The funding for day to day repair and maintenance, however, is provided through the school’s delegated budget. The School Governors Guide to the Law has a useful chapter (25) on Health and Safety that identifies where the responsibilities lie for the different categories of schools.

The school will have a health and safety policy in place and it is noted that they have also sought advice from several key agencies. Undoubtedly, risk assessments would have been carried out and it is envisaged that the Local Authority would have played a key role in assisting the school in determining the correct way forward.

Many governing bodies appoint a link governor for health and safety, as well as forming a committee for premises, health and safety. Governors Cymru Services has information on these:

Health and Safety link governor role

Premises, Health and Safety committee

Bearing in mind the complexity of Health and safety, it is essential that the school and governing body seeks advice from the experts, so please contact the relevant officers at the Local Authority who will be able to provide advice in the first instance. Has the governing body signed up to a Service Level Agreement for repairs and maintenance with the Local Authority? It is paramount to get the issues fixed for the health and safety of pupils and staff on the school site.

Some questions to ask:

  • How often are health and safety inspections carried out?
  • Is there a designated health and safety officer for the school?

The Health and Safety Executive has lots of useful information too.

Has your school had any building issues that also raise health and safety concerns? What did you do to address these?
Do you know which governors have the skills to take on responsibilities for building work and related health and safety issues?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

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