State of education: buildings

Most teachers tell us that issues with facilities negatively impact the learning environment for their students. 


In the latest survey of over 8,000 National Education Union members, conducted ahead of Annual Conference in Bournemouth, we asked teachers and support staff about the state of their school/college/nursery buildings.

  • Two thirds of teachers (68%) work in buildings which have leaks from the rain. For one in ten (10%) this is a “severe” issue.
  • Young people are being taught in severely overheated conditions, according to a third of teacher respondents (33%). For one in six (16%), their workplace generates severely cold working conditions.
  • 57% of teachers tell us that issues with facilities negatively impact the learning environment for their students. 

The State of Education survey gauges the views of working teacher, support staff and school leader NEU members in England and Wales. We are releasing the findings over the course of Annual Conference.


Old buildings and unaddressed repair works are contributing to increasingly difficult working conditions for both staff and students. 

We asked members to tell us which issues related to building conditions and maintenance are causing problems at their place of work. We found that many are working in buildings that are highly susceptible to the elements.

Building issues in your workplace

Leaks from the rain affect 68% of teacher respondents, and one in ten (10%) describe this as a severe problem.

Children are being taught in buildings that, according to 33% teachers, are severely overheated in summer. A further third say that it is a moderate issue in their workplace, with 19% describing it as a minor issue. This totals 85% affected, leaving just 15% who are happy with temperature control during summer months. Added to this, there are ventilation issues for a majority (58%).

It is concerning that one in six (16%) have to work in severe cold conditions during winter, with almost a third more (29%) saying that for them this is a “moderate” issue. 

41% of teachers said there are signs of vermin or pests in their workplace, while over a quarter (29%) reported leaks of sewage or waste water.

45% of respondents report mould or damp in their workplace – conditions which are known to cause respiratory illness – with a fifth (21%) describing the mould or damp as moderate or severe.

The tragic case of Awaab Ishak highlighted the dangers of damp and mould. The Government’s own guidance states that “Damp and mould primarily affect the airways and lungs, but they can also affect the eyes and skin. The respiratory effects of damp and mould can cause serious illness and, in the most severe cases, death.”

Members responding our survey went on to tell us about their personal experience: 

“My hands were bleeding during the cold spell earlier this year because the classroom was so cold. This is unhygienic and painful.”

“We have a ceiling leak that is causing severe damage that has been left for four years.”

“Two years ago, the ceiling fell in in my classroom after some heavy rain. It was lucky this happened in the middle of the night or people, including me, would have been seriously injured.”

“Our building is full of asbestos and is falling down. Pieces of the plaster/concrete on walls and ceiling regularly flake off.”

“In my previous school, my classroom flooded every time it rained. I had to mop it up as there was nobody else to do it. It got so bad the floor lifted and the door swelled so we couldn’t open it. It was the fire escape.”

“My room has black mould and has been flooding on walls each time it rains heavily.”

“One of our classrooms has fungus growing out of the carpet. The site manager has to remove it regularly.”

“We have asbestos in a staff toilet and it’s been off-bounds for months. It’s not actually been fixed, just closed.”

“My building is over 100 years old. It should have been declared unfit for purpose a decade ago and been built anew.”


We asked members to tell us about the scale by which building conditions affect learning, and what is being done about this. 

How often do the following statements apply in your school/college/nursery? (Teachers in England & Wales)
Issues with buildings/facilities negatively impact the learning environment for my pupils/students.6%12%39%31%13%
Repairs to serious issues with facilities are fixed in a timely manner.13%37%29%16%5%

A majority of teachers (57%) tell us that issues with facilities have a negative impact on learning. For almost a fifth (18%) this is usually or always the case. A corresponding fifth (21%) told us that repairs to serious issues are rarely or never fixed in a timely manner.

They told us: 

“We have windows in the library that don’t open and we also have windows that don’t close. There is little ventilation in the space.”

“The conditions have led to diagnosis of asthma in staff & pupils & led to long term sickness due to lung infection and exacerbation of asthma.”

“Carpets in the corridors are sodden with rainwater coming in through the roof, damp and mould everywhere, holes in ceilings, blocked drains cause flooding. Pupil toilets have taken almost six weeks to refurb, therefore the classroom was out of action too.”

“Haven’t had access to any of my resources or classroom since July due to asbestos.”

“There are not enough rooms for the interventions and support our students need. I have delivered interventions sitting on the floor of corridors or in cloakrooms.”

“Boiler broke so no hot meals for nearly a month.”

“We had no boiler (heating/hot water/access to school kitchen) for eight weeks before Christmas. Staff and kids were freezing. Unable to provide hot meals.”

“Four weeks so far with no heating in a classroom.”

“We have RAAC which has not really been sorted. Lots of meetings for no outcome.”

“RAAC was identified last September and we are still not able to even start work. This is such a waste of space and resources.” 

“One school on our federation had to use our hall in first week of term to teach (children were bussed over) because their roof had massively leaked over half term through asbestos.”

“We’re really struggling. Myself and the site manager perform small miracles. The school really wants knocking down and rebuilding.”

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Daniel Kebede, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“There are limits to a culture of ‘make do and mend’, and the line that should not be crossed is when it comes to our nation’s children. As this survey shows, pupils are routinely being taught in conditions that have a negative impact on their learning and could even impact their health. 

“This is by no means the fault of school leaders, who are doing the best they can with the facilities and budgets they have. 70% of schools are financially worse off in real terms than in 2010. Leaks and ventilation are a chronic issue for many. The fact is that this Government has neglected school and college buildings for fourteen years. 

“At the present rate of 50 schools per year, the Government’s School Rebuilding Programme will take 460 years to complete its work. That is many more generations of children to fail. 

“This must change. We need to see a serious injection of new money into projects that will regenerate the school estate and ensure that asbestos, RAAC and time spent learning in portacabins are a thing of the past. If this Government was serious about education and the wellbeing of staff and students, then it would do so."

Editor’s Note

We conducted the survey between 6-20 February 2024. This report covers the findings from 8,017 responses from teachers, leaders and support staff in schools in England and Wales. We also received responses from NEU members in Northern Ireland, in the post-16 sector, in early years and supply; these are not included in this analysis but will feed into further work during the year.

We split the responses into two broad groups: school teachers and school support staff. We split these two groups into English state schools, Welsh state schools and independent schools in England and Wales. We did this so we could weight responses against the different demographic data available from their respective workforce censuses.

Where we have reported results for school teachers in England and Wales or support staff in England and Wales, we have combined the responses for English state schools, Welsh state schools and independent schools in England and Wales and weighted them in proportion to the size of the workforce.

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