The importance of effective resource planning in schools maintenance programmes

Lucy Field
School holidays are eagerly awaited by pupils and staff, but, for local education authorities, this is prime time for maintenance works.

Scheduling of maintenance projects is always difficult in a busy school environment. The summer vacation is the least disruptive option to deliver the school projects, but there’s a lot of planning design and enabling work required to get the best results from both schedule and budget.

For local authorities, much is at stake, with statutory duties and schools’ reputations to uphold. The schools are effectively the authority’s client body, and a well-maintained estate is in everyone’s interests.

In our experience, authorities value an efficient and cost-effective planning and construction process that takes account of schools’ individual needs. This encompasses a variety of stakeholders: pupils, parents, teachers, ancillary staff, the governing body and Ofsted.

Many schools maintenance programmes have benefited from Faithful+Gould’s multi-disciplinary consultancy approach. Our appointment with Derby City Council, now in its eighth year, is one example of how well this can work.

Like most local authorities, Derby City Council undertakes regular condition surveys of its education estate, followed by a review of the priorities for the year ahead. This sets the scene for the council’s annual capital maintenance plans, which begin in the autumn, with designs and costings prepared for March (at which point budgets are confirmed), and most construction works programmed for and undertaken during the six-week summer vacation.

We provide Derby City Council with a consistent and collaborative project team. We get to know the schools we’re working with, understand their needs, and become familiar with the buildings—the layout, the construction and the likelihood of asbestos, for instance. This ongoing relationship means that project inception is swift, straightforward and cost-effective.

A comprehensive communications plan, beginning with a clearly articulated vision, keeps individual schools updated. Feasibility studies for Derby City Council are undertaken in November, and schools have a full briefing in May, so they can prepare and organise their space. We notify schools well in advance of the works, advising them of any temporary facilities and accesses, and assuring them of health & safety, security (during vacation as well as term-time) and safeguarding procedures (for example DBS checks) for all parties.

Minimum disruption is a priority, working closely with each school understanding their individual needs and expectations throughout a project whether during term time or vacation: inset days, hall lettings, teacher set-up access to classrooms, or office access can also be incorporated into the works schedule.

Project planning is key, to ensure that much can be achieved as early as possible in the academic year. Subject to budget approval, specialist pre-construction surveys, such as asbestos, may be completed in the Easter vacation. The priority is to avoid any schedule over-run, especially into the September new term.

The procurement plan is similarly precise. Orders are placed early and resource secured in good time for the summer schedule. By procuring roofing and window packages across the programme at an early stage, we can place timely orders with the supply chain, as well as achieving cost economies of scale. The council’s energy efficiency initiatives are incorporated, and local suppliers are prioritised if required.

In addition to keeping the schools well informed, we ensure that the council has a single point of contact, and proactive monthly update meetings where any concerns can be promptly resolved. An end-of-year programme workshop analyses success and captures areas for improvement, ensuring lessons learned are harnessed for the following year.

In 2016-17, a challenging programme chalked up some impressive results.

On the Derby City Council programme, Faithful+Gould provided project management, building surveying design, cost management, Principal Designer and CDM advisory services, together with management of sub-consultants. We have drawn on our many years’ experience of leading projects and programmes in the education sector, where we have helped local education authorities, academies and private schools find the most cost-efficient solutions to their estate planning. This results in well-maintained, safe, compliant, attractive facilities.

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