Condition Surveys the ‘starting point’ to secure 100% funding and more strategic CAPEX at Rowan Learning Trust

Condition Surveys the ‘starting point’ to secure 100% funding and more strategic CAPEX at Rowan Learning Trust

Rowan Learning Trust Statistics

  6 schools – 3 Secondary, 2 Primary, 1 Pupil Referral Unit
  Centralised services for HR, Finance, Premises and School Improvement
  4 Local Authorities in North West England
  3600 pupils

School Property Matters Project Statistics

  6 Condition Surveys
  5 non-PFI Site Plans
  Engaged in 2018
  Rowan Learning Trusts’ Preferred Supplier for property management insights

Key Service Outcomes

  Secured total £3m funding since introducing Condition Surveys
  100% successful bids for Condition Improvement and Conversion funding
  Accelerated bid process

Established in 2012 North West based Rowan Learning Trust look after 6 Academies across 4 Local Authorities including Wigan, Knowsley, Bury and Lancashire.

Director of Operations John Robinson explains how School Property Matters have supported the Trust and enabled them to secure much needed capital expenditure funding with greater confidence and clarity.


“Up until School Property Matters’ involvement we didn’t have any clear way of gauging the work that needed to be done to maintain our schools,” says John.

“With the best will in the world our headteachers had a rough idea of what was required, but very little strategic planning was taking place.”

Lack of expert analysis

“My background is in IT rather than Premises, so when I came on board to manage the buildings there was a lot to learn about the fabric of the Estate,” John admits.

“There were no surveyors’ reports or baseline, expert analysis that would give an official and reliable view of the state of the properties.”

Reactive maintenance

“Without any clear information helping Heads to make proactive decisions and properly prioritise works to be done there was a lot of reactive and cosmetic maintenance going on,” explains John.

“There was also increased risk that any serious but less visible problems were not being addressed.”

Best package

“After meeting Jeremy Pilgrim at a Conference and hearing what he had to say about the importance of Condition Surveys we went ahead and invited them to tender for our surveying work,” says John.

“An important selling point for us was that School Property Matters already had a good relationship with cloud-based planning platform providers EVERY. Since we were evaluating that tool at the time it was good to see how SPM’s output would slot into EVERY.

“This coupled with the detail and structure of their proposition meant their submission while not the cheapest, was certainly the strongest we saw.”

Prompt Efficiency

“We commissioned a Condition Survey for each of our properties,” says John. “SPM also replaced our legacy Local Authority site plans with up-to-date CAD drawings for our 5 Academies not under PFI.

“All surveys were scheduled and carried out very straightforwardly during the school holidays.

“The surveyor involved was really good and gave us immediate feedback on each school, so we could get an early warning of any major red flags ahead of the report coming out.

“The full survey reports were available in a few weeks, including a high level report, photographic illustrations and a costed breakdown of all the recommended work.

“We were under really tight timescales in the conversion process but SPM respected our constraints and got the reports to us in time for us to bid for funds.”


“The Surveys were very revealing. There were no catastrophic surprises, but they certainly validated how important it is to get them done – and how much it costs to look after premises!

“For example, the surveys throw up the less obvious things that need to be addressed. It’s relatively easy to think that schools are well maintained when you just look at the superficial things, but there is a risk of hiding the more serious stuff which gets more expensive if not tackled.

“I think for the first time our leadership teams had real clarity about what was required, and where to focus more intrusive surveying ahead of remedial works being carried out.”


“The Condition Surveys have definitely enabled Headteachers, Governors and Senior Leadership teams to take a more proactive and strategic view of their maintenance plans,” asserts John.

“And because the information is clearly visible, costed and prioritised this has improved communication and cooperation amongst the schools. Pretty much everyone understands where the priorities lie so I haven’t had to have the tough conversations I was expecting!

“SPM have certainly helped us take a pragmatic view across the whole Estate,” John confirms.

Funding Success

“Prior to bringing in SPM, I hadn’t managed to secure any Condition Improvement Funding over four years of submitting bids!” admits John.

“I think this is because the bids we’ve prepared before are based on conjecture. Once we had the Condition Surveys done we were providing independent, evidence-based information, that matched the CIF criteria.

“It resulted in roof improvements for one school and a brand new boiler at another – classic examples of things that might otherwise have been missed.

Improved strategic planning

John explains: “The Condition Survey is the cornerstone of property maintenance across all our premises, and it allows better strategic planning of works on a rolling 3-5 year development plan.

“Our schools have a clearer view of what to spend their maintenance budgets on and can address urgent things as needed.

“Once we’ve fixed the stuff no one sees we can then start putting money back into the learning spaces – and that’s when it gets really exciting,” John enthuses.

“Managing buildings is a significant barrier to teaching, but good environments are key to good learning. SPM have helped the Trust recognise the importance of our premises in what we deliver to our students.”


“Rowan Learning Trust is founded on the principles of earned autonomy, and doesn’t do centralisation for the sake of it,” John affirms.“However pooling resources, cooperating over prioritisation and leveraging any purchasing power are examples of how centralised information can be really helpful.

“Having clear Condition Surveys and mutually agreed development plans and priorities means that we can benefit from a centralised approach when it adds value.”

Digital information

“It’s good to see SPM investing in technology for more flexible access to the information recorded through the Condition Surveys.

“The Plan Radar system enables me to drill down into each survey and view it from different angles and levels.

“Having access to cloud-based management information reporting will contribute a lot to a more strategic approach to CAPEX,” says John.

What School Property Matters Say

It’s been a privilege to support Rowan Learning Trust in establishing their Condition Survey strategy – and helping them secure the funding they needed to grow.

It’s great to see John and his team develop the confidence to bid for substantial capital expenditure, and know that they are building up a good reputation for reliable information.

We look forward to supporting Rowan Learning Trust on their expansion journey.

Find Out More

Email Us Today
or call 01253 376376


  I have no hesitation in recommending School Property Matters for all your premises management support. They are definitely our preferred supplier when it comes to surveys and plans, and we look forward to working with them as we expand our capacity.  

John Robinson, Director of Operations

Find Out More

Email Us Today
or call 01253 376376



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