Understanding school property


As principal you are responsible for making sure your school property serves the school’s present and future achievement goals. Leadership related to property involves:

  • complying with Ministry of Education property regulations and requirements
  • resourcing strategically
  • providing a safe, orderly and supportive environment
  • using the smart tools provided by the Ministry of Education to efficiently manage and enhance school property.

Property plans

The Ministry of Education property policies and regulations require schools' 10 Year Property Plans (10YPP) to to be based on:

  • the standardised building Condition Assessment methodology and
  • the Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) assessment tool.

The standardised planning process enables schools, with support from a contracted 10YPP consultant, to rank planned projects into four areas:

Priority 1: Health and safety

Priority 2: Essential infrastructure

Priority 3: Modernising learning environments to the core standard

Priority 4: Discretionary projects.

Visit the Ministry of Education's website to read about:

Preparing your 10YPP

Flexible learning spaces and the ILE assessment tool

School property policy and procedures

  • Check your Property occupancy document to ensure you have the core principles of school property management, use and development sorted.
  • Make sure school policies and procedures take account of your resourcing, school environment and the application of the leadership dimensions of the property smart tools to every phase of property decision-making and action.
  • Reflect on how well your property knowledge and skills prepare you to meet the expectations of the New Zealand School Property Strategy 2011-2021 and your school’s achievement goals.

Property occupancy document - Ministry of Education website

Online guides to property

The property pages on the Ministry of Education’s website are an essential reference for all new principals and board members.

  • The focus is on state school property, but there is some information for integrated schools.
  • The pages clearly explain all the regulations and requirements for state schools and describe the processes involved in each stage of the property management process. 

Here are some places on the Ministry of Education website to start:

New Zealand School Property Strategy

10 Year Property Plan (10YPP)

5 Year Agreement (5YA) funding

Property portal

The Property portal, which replaced the Property Management Information System in 2017, provides information on your school's annual property management grant and allows you to work out whether your school has the space it is entitled to.

Online guides for health and safety

Here are some places on the Ministry of Education website to start:

Health and safety system

  • The Practical guide and the Leadership pages in this section are written for school leaders and boards

Emergency management and traumatic incidents

  • Pay particular attention to the resources that support planning and preparedness for use in times of emergency.

Property management

Each board manages school property using systematic processes that meet the requirements and responsibilities defined in the Property Occupancy Document.

These are:

  • The 10-year property cycle.
  • General maintenance from the operational funding.
  • Ministry of Education general support, advice and, in special cases, funding in times of emergency.
  • Community support and funding where locally generated funds provide for district facilities on the school site. For example for a swimming pool or hall.
  • Health and safety procedures to meet the standards required for all aspects of school property use and maintenance including, for most schools, meeting the requirements for building warrants of fitness. Rural schools are likely to have procedures to ensure water supplies are safe for consumption. 

The principal's role

The principal plays a key role in building strong working relationships with the Ministry of Education, property consultant and property project managers. In this way you learn quickly about property matters but do not get buried in the details. Your goal is to make sure their expertise directs property processes to strongly support school achievement goals.

  • Some large schools have one or two board members who undertake much of the policy and implementation work for property. 
  • Many boards will expect their principal to lead the processes and step in to take action as required.
  • Some rural schools have pooled resources so they can employ a part-time person to oversee correct application of Ministry of Education policies and attend to tenders, contracts with builders and liaison with the property consultant.
  • Most property projects of any size now require the employment of a professional project manager.

Project management – Ministry of Education

Achievement strategies and property

Make well-defined school achievement goals and plans the basis for your property decision-making and strategy. The building Conditions Assessment methodology and the Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) assessment tool help you do this.

Implementing a regular pattern of prioritising spending and actions to maintain and add to a school environment so that it provides a pleasant and encouraging learning place for both staff and pupils will strongly support school achievement goals.

Keep in mind that property-related actions can be at the maintenance, refurbishment or new capital work levels. 

Engage in “open to learning conversations” about school property and its use.

For example:

Capture views of the school facilities and their use through the eyes of the daily users, both students and staff. Find out property needs, safety issues and wishlists:

  • Discuss the capacity of classrooms to provide the setting for meeting achievement goals with the teachers and students. Do this in their space. If there is a worst classroom in the school go there first!
  • Involve staff and students in hazard identification and minimisation and keeping up to date with maintenance. Supplement recording of and acting on hazards with minor maintenance actions. Many eyes help identify property needs and speed up the process.
  • Regularly observe and analyse student and staff travel patterns around, in and out of the school. Identifying and alleviating bottlenecks and crowding may reduce student conflict and bullying issues. Staff at the perimeter of a large school may feel isolated and find the long trek to the staffroom an issue. Evolving traffic patterns at the beginning and end of the school day can create new needs and hazards.
  • View the school property after extreme weather conditions. Heavy rain and drainage issues may have a significant impact on student and staff well-being.
  • Look for what needs maintaining, what has been improved by student or staff action and what would benefit from a re-think about use and appearance.
  • Make sure the school has an operative maintenance plan. Do not put off maintenance work. An active preventative maintenance regime will avoid serious and expensive problems occurring later.
  • Encourage the display of evidence of student achievement in public spaces and all classrooms. Living reminders of the community and its culture are important.
  • Ask on each trip around the school, “What is not evident in our school’s property that would strengthen our achievement capacities?”

You are not expected to be a property ‘expert’. Your skill is recognising when you need help and knowing where to go to get it. 

  • Take advantage of the expertise of your property consultant to gather guidance on how to work through the complexity of property issues.
  • Use the expertise of property project managers to develop solutions for property issues and the needs of achieving classrooms. 

Engaging in these two groups of open to learning conversations develops two-way learning and helps everyone recognise that there are limits and constraints that force you to prioritise.

Ask for help – Seek the advice and support of the Ministry of Education when questions and issues with property arise. You are leading the guardianship of school property for achievements by learners in the year ahead. 

Tags: Systems and Policy

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Student learning spaces

Anne Kenneally has decided to create a radically different learning space for her learners from the one they are used to.

Anne Kenneally - EDtalks, 2012

Related sabbatical reports

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