Exclusive survey is warning to political parties that cutting education investment will harm pupils

Most headteachers believe there is a link between the condition and design of school buildings and the level of pupil attainment, according to research carried out for Building.

The exclusive survey, commissioned by education conference BSEC and completed by 87 heads of secondary schools, found 78% agreed or strongly agreed that attainment was linked to the school estate, and 93% felt improving school buildings in poor condition had a positive effect on pupils.

The verdict is a warning to the next government about the cost of making drastic cuts to the school building programme, a move most commentators are predicting as part of a wider set of public spending cuts. Fifty-six per cent of the heads said they believed a political party’s support for school building would be a vote winner in a general election, compared with 25% who did not.

Eighty-two per cent of respondents said they were worried about cuts to school building programmes after the next election. When asked how cuts would affect them, one headteacher responded: “We’re currently judged to be next in line [for improvements], but I fear priorities will change and the process will grind to a halt – great for those who have benefited, but for the rest of us it will be business and poor accommodation as usual.”

Another commented: “Our school is no longer fit for purpose. It needs to be rebuilt if we are to deliver the curriculum and offer decent facilities.”

Ty Goddard, chief executive of the British Council for School Environments, said: “These findings reflect the reality – that buildings can and do affect how our children learn and our teachers teach. Investment in the school estate is not a luxury, but a key tool in preparing our children for adult life.”

Despite the strong support for continued investment, however, the survey underlined that there was still room for improvement in the current schools spending schemes, the biggest of which is the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme. The headteachers of five schools said they expected their project to be delivered more than a year late, out of 37 who responded to the question. Thirteen (35%) said their schemes would be on time.

Just under half of respondents (47%) said they were very pleased or quite pleased with the design of their new school, while 15% said they were not pleased.

A spokesperson for Partnerships for Schools said: “These findings about the positive impact of new or refurbished schools is what we hear from parents, teachers and pupils. But our own data clearly illustrates that well over 90% of our schools have been delivered within agreed dates.”

To book a place at the BSEC 2010 conference on 24-25 February, go to www.buildingschools.co.uk