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Education, Education

15 May 2006

Schools have proved to be a fertile area for PFI projects thanks to government commitments to improve the quality and education standards, and to update teaching facilities. Scotland has been a testbed as Jane Fenwick found in Glasgow and Edinburgh

St Joseph's Primary School. Edinburgh

Decades of under investment and a huge backlog of maintenance and repairs coupled with the funding advantages that PFI schemes offer, make them one of the most attractive routes to improving large batches of schools in cities across the country. Scotland has taken the lead with its massive Glasgow Schools PFI, one of the largest schemes in terms of the number of schools and its £1.2bn contract value.

Glasgow’s city centre schools were in a poor state of repair and demographic changes meant that their size and distribution needed to be rationalised to take account of the current and future school-age population. In 1997 Glasgow had 38 secondary comprehensive schools, more than it needed for the school age population. From 1981, when the school roll was 58,000, years of people moving out to ‘over-spill’ towns and suburbs nearby brought the school roll down to 29,000 by the time the 29 PFI schools were completed in 2003.

The PFI provided the finance to enable the Council to give every child in Glasgow the opportunity to study in a decent secondary school equipped with IT to be fully used as an educational tool. As Sandy Bremner, General Manager of 3ED Glasgow Ltd, the consortium of Miller Group, Halifax/Bank of Scotland, Amey and technology partners, Mitel and Morse*, explained, “Glasgow City Council had hoped that PFI would enable them to build two new schools and extend and refurbish the rest. But the3ED scheme was able to provide finance for 12 new and 17 refurbished secondary schools, and one primary school. Without the PFI it would have taken them up to 25 years to bring the school estate to the same standard. They now have an up-to-date estate equipped with fantastic IT, and they can concentrate on the ‘core’ business of delivering the education to the children.”

with 3ED rebuilt 11 of the secondary schools and one primary school in the worst condition, located mostly on their existing school playgrounds and sports fields. The old schools were demolished and playing fields and recreational facilities reinstated and improved. The other schools were fully upgraded and refurbished, eight schools had major extensions built and a new joint primary/pre-school campus was also built under the deal. Overall some 15,000 desktop computers and laptops for teachers were provide in networked classrooms.

Providing the FM for the 30 years of the PFI contract, Amey’s role began in August 2000 and continued throughout the construction phase and beyond. Maintaining poor quality building stock either while it was being refurbished or while a brand new school was being built alongside, was a challenge to a smooth changeover to the PFI for staff, pupils and parents, as well as coping with the inevitable disruption and cleaning issues that construction brings. With the last new build school completed in October 2003, all the schools are now in ‘steady state’ and the pupils and staff are now benefiting from significantly better facilities, new furniture, excellent ICT equipment and planned and reactive maintenance.

Expectations
As Amey Business Services’ Head of Facilities for the Glasgow PFI, Bobby Hughes, explained, providing FM to existing schools presented the Amey team with new challenges. Not only were over 600 staff transferred from Glasgow City Council to Amey in one go, but the expectation of the schools’ head teachers were high too. Amey also had no experience of managing educational estates at that time and this was the biggest schools PFI in the UK.

Big scale is something Amey actively seeks for its public sector FM business according to Amey’s CEO, Mel Ewell. “What organisations want is bundled service packages where we can add value and become part of the fabric of the organisation.”

With up to 90 per cent of its business directly linked to the public sector and most of that as PFI contracts, Amey is a prominent services provider in the defence, healthcare and transport (through is share in Tubelines) sectors, and is now leader in education services in the UK through its involvement in schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Renfrewshire, Northamptonshire and Waltham Forest.

Self delivery
Amey learnt about managing large education estates on the job in Scotland, and refined its expertise as each new PFI contract has come on stream. This experience now sees Amey moving towards self delivering many services rathern than subcontracting. As Hughes explained, cleaning and janitorial services were initially provided in Glasgow schools by Amey staff with service partners covering specialist areas such as security (Scotshield), M&E (GS Hall), window cleaning (westco) and grounds maintenance (Land Engineer). “In the last 18 months Amey has recently started self delivering more of these services, and this is to be the pattern in its Scottish PFIs in Glasgow and Renfrewshire. With self delivery there is better control and monitoring of all the services delivered,” he said.

Each school has a senior janitor and two assistant janitors, a day cleaner, a cleaning supervisor and a team of cleaning staff working in shifts. Three FMs have overall responsibility for managing groups about 10 schools across the city, together with assistant FMs, and an FM auditor who monitors performance against the contract’s KPI’s. Over time good relationships have been built up with each school, particularly with the school business managers who place requests with the Amey helpdesk in Maidenhead, and who are the key contact onsite.

According to primary headteacher, Janet Hutchinson, these arrangements work well. “Nothing was done before about maintenance by the local authority,” she explained. Now she has her school janitors and cleaners available to deal with small incidents immediately, and to complete a temporary fix within hours. Apermanent repair has to commence within two days.

The profile of FM is high in all the schools. Their offices and security points are located at the main entrance for pupils, staff and visitors to see. In addition Amey sponsors the under 18s Scottish schools football team, gets involved with schools recycling and environmental issues and works with the Councils on anti-vandalism and graffiti projects.

The results of Amey’s involvement in Glasgow speak for themselves. Out of school hours usage is up 50 per cent particularly for the games halls and outdoor sports facilities. Some schools may be extended to cope with higher numbers of pupils wanting to attend now that the facilities have been improved. For the staff career prospects have improved and recently four senior janitors were promoted from schools to assistant FMs.

When Amey won the £360m schools PFI for the City of Edinburgh in 2001 as part of the Educational Schools Partnership (ESP), a consortium with Miller Construction and the Bank of Scotland, it had the benefit of learning from Glasgow’s experience although the Edinburgh approach to its PFI was different.It concentrated the PFI investment at its schools in the worst condition and these included eight primary and five secondary schools, two special schools, a youth offenders institution and a community centre.

By comparison with Glasgow, Amey did not start its 30 year contract to deliver FM services to schools until each building had been completed. Furthermore, it self delivers the bulk of services with its own staff. The Edinburgh contract covers responsibility for catering services and, with its catering contractor, Scolarest, Amey has been heavily involved in implementing the Scottish Executive’s ‘Hungry for Success’ initiative to improve the diet of school children by encouraging them to choose healthy options on the menu. Amey has also sponsored water bottles for the primary school pupils.

Mobilising the Edinburgh Schools PFI , Amey used its experience from Glasgow by avoiding a ‘big bang’ handover. By engaging positively with the trade unions early it ensured a smooth transfer for 150 staff from City of Edinburgh Council and together they developed a flexible approach to job roles. As a result it has a 95 per cent retention rate for its janitors, and the cleaners and janitors in one of the schools recently won an award from Amey.

Next to come on stream is the £135m schools PPP project with Renfrewshire Council through the Renfrewshire Schools Partnership, a JVcompany comprising Amey Ventures Investment, Carillion Private Finance and Bank of Scotland Corporate. Carillion will build four new secondary and six primary schools by the end of 2007 to be maintained by Amey for 32 years. Meanwhile Amey was last year selected for the biggest grouped schools PFI of its kind in England. The Northamptonshire PFI for 41 primary and secondary schools includes 11 to be rebuilt and rest refurbished by the consortium of Babcock & Brown and Galliford Try with Amey operating the £250m FM services delivery for 32 years.

Tony Blair’s prioritising of “education, education, education” is at the bottom of the rethinking of educational provision across the country. PFI schemes and Building Schools for the Future are at last delivering the kind of facilities that teachers and children need to make the most of their educational opportunities. In Waltham Forest, Amey and Nord Anglia Education in the JV EducAction has resulted in measured educational improvements. Whilst this is not measured in its other PFI projects, new and refurbished schools under new and long term FM contracts are not only providing schools fit for a 21st century education but a new sector of expertise for facilities management.

* 3ED is a single purpose company whose shareholders are now Bank of Scotland (HBOS), Equion Plc and Secondary Market Infrastructure Fund (SMIF).


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