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School construction

Federal school maintenance – the school development programme

Unlike in the compulsory school sector, there is neither a school catchment area nor statutory provisions on establishment, type and size of school buildings for federal schools.

The approach to a solution in the federal school sector is very open compared to the strict Basic Law on the Maintenance of Compulsory Schools (Pflichtschulerhaltungs-Grundsatzgesetz) in the compulsory school sector, issued by the Federal Government and implemented in the individual federal states by state implementation laws.

The Federal Government has refrained from enacting a federal school maintenance act for good reason and, since the 1970s, has regulated the constraints on federal school construction and maintenance by School Development Programme (Schulentwicklungsprogramm – SCHEP) resolutions.

The School Development Programme (SCHEP)

SCHEP is a voluntary commitment by politicians and government which defines the intended and necessary school construction measures over various periods, usually for the next five to ten years. The programme not only takes decisions on specific schools, but also provides a perspective on the federal school renovation and expansion measures planned for the programme period.

In addition, the School Development Programme also contains educational policy guidelines and principles, as well as education and training programmes with regard to development of federal school sites and the principles for financing and administration of the necessary investments in federal school construction. In addition to the annual Federal Finance Act, they therefore form the legal and financial basis for achievement of the investments to create the necessary infrastructure in secondary schooling (school room equipment and facilities).

The advantages of a voluntary commitment over a statutory regulation/regulation by decree

In order to be able to plan sensibly in the field of infrastructure and to optimise decisions with regard to need – both pupils’ demand for training courses and industry and society’s demand for graduates – a longer-term planning horizon is necessary in principle, but it is just as important to maintain the necessary flexibility in order to be able to respond to short-term, new or changed requirements.

The SCHEP is able to achieve both aims. On the one hand there is a consensus about the nature and scope of the measures necessary in federal school construction, on the other the binding effect of the SCHEP is not so great that it is impossible to take account of changed requirements at short notice.

A SCHEP is regularly monitored for objectives and success and revised if necessary, in order to satisfy the changing and developing requirements not only from a teaching, education policy, demographic and school organisation viewpoint, but also from an architectural, functional and construction point of view.

What are the specific challenges for the SCHEP?

Over the last 20 years the change cycles and the concomitant changed school requirements have accelerated significantly.

The rising need for full-day schools, either in the form of separate teaching or high-quality after-school care, can be seen as an example of significant social change.

All-day school requires more than just the resources and conditions that were previously necessary to achieve teaching according to the curriculum in the schools. It is also necessary to create the opportunity for meaningful organisation of leisure time in addition to learning and teaching time. Appropriate provision of a midday meal and a suitable leisure and independent study programme outside of organised lessons thus become essential.

When a pupil moves on to upper secondary school, this is where the federal school sector’s special responsibility as a further education institution to prepare pupils for a profession or a degree course starts. An appropriate, trans-regional education programme must therefore be provided, which is guided by pupil demand as well as society’s and industry’s needs.

The advance of digitalisation, which is resolutely penetrating all areas of life, represents another challenge. School must create the infrastructure basis that facilitates modern, contemporary teaching and learning that includes the use of digital media. In addition to this useful aspect of digitalisation, it is just as important to ensure an appropriate education programme that places pupils not only in a position to use the new tools and media, but also to create such tools and media themselves as the result of this training.

The SCHEP is now trying to reflect this over a ten-year period and to implement it in accordance with requirements, taking into account the imperatives of thriftiness, expedience and economy.

A wide portfolio of options is available in order to achieve this stipulation. In addition to housing federal schools in Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG) buildings, there is also a tradition of collaboration with federal states and municipalities which creates space for federal schools in cooperation with these authorities. Synergistic cooperation with the municipalities generates great advantages for both parties, especially in the area of sports facility construction. The school uses the facility in the mornings and afternoons, for example, and clubs use them in the evenings and at weekends.

Furthermore, as part of cooperative provision of school premises, the Federal Government participates in construction projects with private school providers if the construction project supplements and strengthens the network of federal schools in line with need.