Standards for education premises

The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 stipulate minimum standards for school premises. Schools and colleges are also covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which outline provisions that must be made in relation to the work environment.

Provisions that are covered by these regulations include: toilet facilities, fire, staff rooms, weather protection, noise, lighting, heating, temperature, ventilation and water supply.

What legislation applies to schools and colleges?

The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 apply to all maintained schools in England and Wales, including nursery, community, foundation and voluntary schools, as well as pupil referral units. The premises of non-maintained special schools and independent schools approved by the Secretary of State for children with special educational needs are also subject to these regulations. It is important that all schools covered by the regulations adhere to these provisions.

ATL also considers that the minimum standards laid down should be followed by independent establishments, as it is undoubtedly in the interests of the health and safety of both staff and pupils.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 apply to all types of educational establishments in the UK. These regulations overlap with some of the provisions of the Education (School Premises) Regulations, which have specific requirements for facilities relating to staff, medical rooms and toilet/washrooms, as well as conditions relating to boarding schools.

General health, safety and welfare

For all school or college sites, the condition of the premises should provide sufficient assurance as to the health, safety and welfare of all who are using the building. Good standards of hygiene should be maintained. There should also be sufficient space so that overcrowding can be avoided.

Toilet facilities

The Education (School Premises) Regulations stipulate that there should be at least one toilet for every 10 pupils under five years and one for every 20 pupils over that age. In special schools, the minimum provision is one toilet for every 10 pupils, irrespective of age.

Staff toilets must be separate from those for pupils. Whilst the number of toilets for staff must be "adequate", the regulations do not specify a minimum provision. One therefore has to turn to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, which lay down the following minimum levels for all workplaces in its Code of Practice:

No. of people at work No. of WCs
1-5 1 WC
6-25 2 WCs
26-50 3 WCs
51-75 4 WCs
76-100 5 WCs

Staff rooms and rest rooms

According to the Education (School Premises) Regulations, every school (except pupil referral units) must have a staff room, separate from teaching accommodation, for teachers to use for work and for social purposes. Whilst the size of the staff room is not specified, it is implied that it should be reasonable.

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, employers must provide facilities for rest and to eat meals (where meals are regularly eaten). Eating facilities should include the facility to obtain or prepare hot drinks. It is possible for the room used for eating facilities to double up as a rest area, but the space should be large enough for the number of workers likely to use it at any one time.

Medical rooms

The Education (School Premises) Regulations require every school to have a room for medical or dental examinations, and the care of sick or injured pupils. Such a room must be readily accessible, contain a washbasin and be reasonably near a toilet. It must not be teaching accommodation.

Noise/acoustics

Each room in a school building must have acoustic conditions and insulation against disturbance by noise appropriate to its normal use, according to the Education (School Premises) Regulations. Other legislation requires employers to carry out an assessment of the risk created by noise exposure in the workplace.

Weather protection

The Education (School Premises) Regulations stipulate that school buildings must be reasonably resistant to penetration by rain, snow, wind and rising damp. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require employees to adequately maintain buildings and equipment, with dangerous defects being remedied and records retained.

Lighting

In all workplaces, each room must be appropriately lit by natural and/or artificial light. Under the Education (School Premises) Regulations, the illumination of teaching accommodation must be 300 lux or more at any point on the work surface - this is usually appropriate in classrooms, libraries and halls. However, the illumination must not be less than 500 lux where visually demanding tasks are carried out, for example, in laboratories.

For all educational establishments, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations state that every workplace should have suitable lighting (wherever possible by natural light), which means that the type and level of lighting must be compatible with the nature of the work undertaken. Consequently, specialised lighting may be required in certain areas.

Heating

A school's heating system must be capable of maintaining certain temperatures for prescribed areas, according to the Education (School Premises) Regulations. No regulations prescribe maximum temperatures for schools or colleges, or indeed any other work premises.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations advise a minimum temperature of 16°c in workrooms. Employers should ensure that thermometers are available at convenient places throughout the workplace.

See our section on temperature for more details.

Ventilation

The Education (School Premises) Regulations stipulate that ventilation capable of providing at least eight litres of fresh air per second per occupant is required for all teaching areas. All workplace should be adequately ventilated to provide sufficient quality of fresh or purified air and to prevent the build up of stale, hot or humid air, according to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations.

Often this can be achieved by opening windows, but in other cases the provision of mechanical ventilation or air purifiers may be required.

Water supplies

A wholesome supply of water should be available in all workplaces for drinking to comply with the requirements of UK water bye laws. However, the Education (School Premises) Regulations do not specify how drinking water should be provided. These regulations also state that toilets and urinals must have an adequate supply of cold and hot water for toilets, washbasins, showers, sinks and baths. To minimise the risk of scalding, the temperature of hot water to showers and baths must not exceed 43°C.

Fire

The Education (School Premises) Regulations provide that it must be possible for every part of a school or college building to be safely evacuated in case of fire. Attention must be given to the likely rate at which flames would spread across exposed surfaces, the fire resistance of structures and materials in the building and to means of escape.

Other fire safety regulations require employers to carry out risk assessments and take steps to reduce or remove the risks posed by fire.

See our fire safety section for more details.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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