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A lesson from Belfast

31 May 2012

The Amey team working with the Belfast Education and Library Board

Continuing our series looking at the outstanding projects in the 2011 PFM Awards, we turn to the Partners in Education category, which was won by Amey and the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB).

Amey’s services include managing the entire Library information and communications technology infrastructure across 100 sites, supporting over 4000 pupils across five schools inBelfast and, from August 2011, this was supplemented by support of a further 2500 students in Belfast Metropolitan Collegethrough primarily building and facilities management. Amey also forms part of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) investment companies that operate the Belfast School PPP Project.

Belfast Schools Strategic Partnership
The Belfast Schools Strategic Partnership is a seven year partnership between Amey andBELB. The purpose of the contract is to expedite the modernisation of the school estate inBelfast together with youth clubs and libraries in the same area.Phase 1 of the Strategic Partnership was a PPP project to rebuild four post-primary schoolsand one primary school with facilities management to be provided by Amey for the 30year duration of the contract.

Amey led the team which consisted of three contractors, Farrans, H&J Martin and the PattonGroup, to design and build five dynamic schools based in Belfast with state-of-the-art facilities – Ashfield Girls School, Belfast Boys’ Model School, Belfast Model School for Girls, Grosvenor Grammar School and Orangefield Primary School. Amey manage all FM services in the five schools. Services include building fabric maintenance, grounds maintenance, contractor cleaning, pest control, waste management and health and safetymanagement, as well as caretaking and portering, security and energy and utilitiesmanagement.

The five new schools sit at the heart of the community and aim to promote engagement,development and inclusion as the new state-of-the-art facilities serve the life-long learning needs of the whole community.

Community involvement
A strong emphasis was placed on community involvement in the project in particular ensuring that the local and wider communities around the schools fully realised the benefits of the new high quality buildings. In order to meet the specific requirement of the community aspects of the project Amey facilitated and empowered a registered charity that would be made up of local community representatives and its remit would be to determine and oversee all the community use in all of the Phase 1 schools.

The charity, called Artemis, has been operational for around two years now and it aims to connect people with places and spaces to enable social change through clever business. Artemis works to develop community benefits by maximising the utilisation of the schools estate outside of core academic hours. This has been achieved through the implementation of a social enterprise economy which is for more-than-profit, delivering on social, financial and environmental targets.

Amey facilitated the set up of Artemis in December 2009following the completion of the school buildings. Amey supports the charity and provided the set up costs and the cost of ongoing management of the website /online booking system ( as well as the promotion of the school facilities to the community. The website brings all five schools together and lists the facilities each school offers and allows a variety of people and community groups, such as parents, faith groups, sports clubs and local businesses, to hire the facilities out at affordable / value for money rates.

Any surpluses are fed back into the community and used for learning and skills activities that will create a sustainable future and allow for further development and change. The aim is tocreate a community that ultimately invests in itself.

School facilities
Additional funding support was provided to enhance the school facilities for the community.For example, Big Lottery provided funding to increase the size of the sports halls in two of theschools by a third.Other state-of-the-art facilities include – an ‘Electronic Village Hall’ with over 60 computers,performing arts theatres, a hair and beauty salon, a dance studio, music recording studios, acrèche, a construction / DIY skills laboratory and fitness suites.

The following community initiatives are being fulfilled by the project:
?? Targeted community based further education
?? Dance partnerships running regular dance classes and competitions
?? Sports partnerships running various teams and skill development for all ages
??New formed athletics and hockey clubs
?? Model flying groups
??Various societies use the school halls on a regular basis
?? Counsellor training

Below are some examples of how the facilities are being used by the community:
?? The new theatre hall in the Boys’ Model School was used to host a northern Irish play about the shipyard in Belfast called The Boat Factory where school staff, pupils, parents and the community attended.
?? Ashfield Girls School’s dance studio has enabled the school to support the ‘Rock Challenge’ initiative, a healthy lifestyle dance competition which has brought parents and local people into the school.
?? The new ’Electronic Village Hall’ in Belfast Model School for Girls provides vital internet access to members of the community who do not have access to a computer. It provides access for local residents to learn a new skill or take up a new course.

The Amey FM team
The Amey FM team is made up of 18 people who work across the five schools based in Belfast. The team consists of an Account Manager who leads the team, a Facilities Manager, an Office Manager, an Office Administrator, an electrician and 13 Facilities Technicians and Assistants.

Artemis work with the Amey FM team based at each school to set up the facilities and ensure that they are available and safe for use. They also hold an induction session with the leader /instructor hiring the facility to ensure they are fully aware of the Health and Safety procedure in the building and are fully equipped to brief attendees on the procedure on arrival. There is always someone from the Amey FM team in the building when it’s in use to ensure customer service and assist in the event of an emergency.

Measuring success
The successes of the Belfast Schools Strategic Partnership include:
??This project is the first of its kind not only in Northern Ireland but in the UK. There are plans to roll this model out across Northern Ireland.
??The community facilities were funded by circa £7million of cross departmental capital support and Big Lottery funding, and £500,000 of annual revenue support.
?? Artemis generated about £50,000 gross revenue from December 2009 to January 2011 through renting out the schools facilities to the local community.
?? Over 30 groups have partnered with Artemis so far including Belfast Metropolitan College, various dance and football clubs, Ulster Fencing Association, St John’s Ambulance, Action Cancer and a number of cross community groups.
??There were over 28,000 people from the community who used the facilities for many different activities across 1,500 different sessions in 2010.
??To date, £60,000 has been re-invested into the community through learning and skills activities.

A pupil from Grosvenor Grammar School.“My favourite feature of the new School is the sporting facilities. I am a member of the hockey team and it is brilliant for us to play on the new Astro turf pitches which are of the highest standard imaginable.”
“There is a Media Editing Suite and we get to use things like video cameras and Mac computers,” commented a pupil from Belfast Boys’ Model School.
“We held our annual Amey Quiz in Ashfield Girls School, gasps were heard by those entering this superb school, it was a great venue with excellent catering too,” said Lawrence Smith, Amey Leadership Graduate and Quiz Organiser.

Ms Mungavin, principle of Ashfield Girls School said, “Ashfield now has a first class school building with fantastic facilities. Our dance studio in particular has proven to be extremely popular with both our students and the local community. It has enabled us to support the ‘Rock Challenge’ initiative, a healthy lifestyle dance competition which has brought parents and other local people into the school.”

Johnny Graham, principal of Belfast Model School for Girls (BMSG) said, “We open our doors from 7am until 10pm and our facilities, including an ‘Electronic Village Hall’ with over 60 computers, a performing arts theatre, a hair and beauty salon, and a crèche are proving to be fantastic resources for our students and the wider community.”

The judges said it was truly uplifting to see the commitment of all the partners achieving partnership success and community cohesion to create a lasting legacy for this deprived area.

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