The considerable efforts made over the last four decades in terms of creating school infrastructures focused mainly on expanding the school network.
To that end, standard solutions and standardised and mass construction techniques were applied.
These efforts did not provide for the parallel development of a constant and consistent practice in terms of conservation and maintenance of the existing buildings or their functional adaptation to reflect new developments in curricula and new educational and training practices. No integrated measures were implemented with regards to the wear and tear caused by use and any building problems the buildings may be subject to during their productive life, despite their high level of physical robustness. To this one can add the need to meet growing legal demands in terms of the environmental comfort and energy efficiency of the buildings.
Any corrective interventions, adaptations or improvements since carried out were done in isolated cases, be it at the initiative of the regional directorates and/or the schools themselves or in the scope of specific re-furbishing programmes by the Ministry of Education (e.g., the school library network, spaces for experimental sciences, and multipurpose sports halls).
This isolated character of the actions carried out was insufficient for comprehensive improvement of the school network, which, in most cases, shows diverse signs of physical, environmental and functional degradation, in addition to energy efficiency problems. With a view to turning this degradation process around, it has proved necessary to develop a school improvement process management model that comprehensively and systematically creates the conditions for:
- achieving effective renovation of the schools, favouring demand-related renovation resulting from the new educational and environmental paradigms;
- ensuring that the renovation programme applies effective processes and follows rigorous planning, given that, in most cases, extensive interventions on the buildings will be carried out while the schools are still operating;
- guaranteeing, after completion of the renovation interventions, the existence of a management model that can meet effectively, and with cost control, normal demands in terms of conservation and upkeep, thus avoiding rapid degradation of the facilities;
- ensuring effective cost control in the various phases defined;
- guaranteeing the financing sources and models, in addition to the PIDDAC programme and EU funding, to ensure the most rapid and effective execution of the renovation programme and the subsequent conservation and upkeep phases while taking the applicable budget constraints into account;
- ensuring that the development, consolidation and materialisation of the main guiding principles for the secondary school modernisation programme be extended to the design and construction of new schools.
The Secondary School Modernisation Programme thus constitutes an important factor in the development of the country and consolidation of the urban system in accordance with the land use management model put forward in the National Land Use Policy Programme (PNPOT), making a contribution to both increasing attractiveness and addressing issues of imbalance in regional development.
This programme is included in the objectives of the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN), and in the Priority IX, Development of the National Urban System, in the Thematic Territorial Enhancement Operational Programme (POVT). This Programme approved financing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the intervention in 114 secondary schools of the Secondary School Modernization Programme, located in three eligible regions (Norte, Centro e Alentejo), whose investments are co-funded up to a rate of 85%.
In the strategic priorities and development commitments established by the QREN, investment in education in general, and in the modernisation of the school network in particular, plays a fundamental role in raising the average school, cultural and vocational qualification levels of the Portuguese population and in the social and economic improvement of the cities and the territory.
As far as the POVT programme is concerned, the investment in the school network modernisation will focus on the level of the development of the national networks of urban facilities and the increase in demand for specific services (objective 1), thus contributing to improving the response of the public secondary school network to the various needs in an effective and equitable way. As far as the stimulating innovative responses to the problems and urban demands (objective 2) is concerned, it will favour improving the efficiency and re-use of existing school infrastructures and facilities over new construction.