Chalking Up Success for Bristol Schools

James Anderson
Faithful+Gould's strong strategic support ensures that Bristol City Council can meet a new statutory obligation, make informed decisions, and achieve best value for money.

A baby boom has transformed primary education across Bristol in recent years. Dozens of schools were expanded, when projections based on birth data and migration patterns called for creation of an extra 10,000 primary places between 2011 and 2016.

Bristol City Council (BCC) is now looking at secondary schools, alternative learning and the impact of government-funded free childcare for two and three-year-olds. The number of secondary pupils in England is set to rise by 20 percent over the next decade – more than half a million children. Bristol faces not only its share of this population bulge, but also extra demand due to the city's popularity and the improved quality of its schools. This adds up to an extra 18 forms of secondary entry needed by 2019.

The number of secondary pupils in England is set to rise by 20 percent over the next decade – more than half a million children.

The Council faces challenges in providing the new secondary places in a changing world of local education provision. The Academies Act 2010 (PDF,0.1MB) paved the way for existing state primary and secondary schools to become academies, and also stipulated that new schools must be free schools.

St.Anne's Infant School

This meant local authorities have had to change the way they work to create new schools, as they still have a statutory responsibility to ensure there are enough school places locally. Having successfully addressed its primary school estate, BCC needed a new strategy to cope with the population bulge moving from primary to secondary education.

Over the past five years Faithful+Gould's Bristol office has already successfully supported the Council in the creation of 10,000 further primary spaces, including early years and Alternative Learning Needs (ALN). Working alongside the Local Education Partnership and contractors Skanska, our team of programme and project managers have delivered 52 projects with a capital budget of over £230 million across the area.

The five-year programme has produced new schools both in new and existing school locations together with extensions and refurbishments. As well as programme and project management, we provide cost management and building surveying support with our parent company, Atkins, also acting as technical advisors.

We are now appointed on BCC 2016 – 2021 integrated education strategy, which includes addressing the secondary school capacity issue. Our aim is to enable the Council to be proactive, ensuring that it can make informed strategic decisions, meet its statutory obligations and achieve best value for money.

Like all local education authorities, BCC has to influence rather than directly create new schools. This means partnership working and consultation with many different agencies, including: Department for Education (DFE), Education Funding Agency (EFA), Primary Heads’ Association Bristol (PHAB), Bristol Association of Secondary Heads and Principles (BASHP), communities, individual schools, governing bodies and academy chains. Our team plays a key role in creating and supporting the Council's customer-facing relationship with these stakeholders.

...BCC needed a new strategy to cope with the population bulge moving from primary to secondary education.

Within the 2016-2021 strategy, a first tranche of secondary schools work has been approved, as well as some children's centres, nurseries and ALN schools. We are now delivering these, while identifying, defining and planning the next tranche of capital works. This is where we add most value to our client – translating the strategy to defined achievable objectives, and designing a programme that delivers those objectives.

Our strategic management includes:

  • Education asset review
  • Property register compilation
  • Interrogation/review of data and projections, to understand local education needs
  • Support to develop optimal education estates strategy
  • Advice on governance procedures required to achieve swift decisions
  • Space utilisation guidance
  • Land availability advice
  • Disposal of land or assets
  • Strong programme management, underpinning sound delivery decisions

Our strategic programme management role has developed significantly during our ten-year relationship with BCC and we anticipate growing demand from other local education authorities for similar services.