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Educational Opportunity

15 January 2005

The Government’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme is well underway providing secondary
schools fit for the 21st Century. Jane Wiggins and John Houlihan explain the role of FM suppliers and FM professionals in this putting policy into practice

PLACING “EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION” at the forefront of its policy, the New Labour Government has been driving change through the education system to improve performance and results. It took three years to produce an Asset Management Plan (AMP) that provided central Government with an up to date record of the school stock, in terms of capacity versus occupancy, general condition and suitability for purpose. The results were not good but to many children and parents in the state sector, not surprising. The school stock had not been maintained to any where near the levels required and many schools built in the 50’s and 60’s were no longer suitable for providing 21st century education.

In February 2003, the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ (BSF) programme was announced, designed to deliver the re-building of the entire secondary school stock over the next 15 years. Wave 1 LEAs were announced in February 2004 and Waves 2 and 3 announced in November. In total, between 1997 and 2005, Government will have increased its capital spending on school facilities from £700m to over £5bn, and a further £2bn per year is expected to be committed until the programme is completed.

The BSF approach radically changes previous attempts to address the need for new and better schools that have been largely piecemeal with individual LEAs putting together PFI schemes. BSF is about high quality, safe and secure, learning environments across the country, through a more strategic approach to the issues of funding, design and procurement allowing staff to concentrate on their role as educators. The BSF is about increasing educational attainment and not about just building new schools but it recognises that properly designed, user friendly buildings go a long way to encouraging people to learn.

There are a number of ongoing educational developments within secondary education aimed at providing young learners with the correct curriculum and further education opportunities. The provision of ICT within schools to support this is a significant element . With a life of 30+ years, new secondary schools have to be flexible in design to accommodate not only future changes in education, but also to keep pace with developments in IT.

Partnerships for Schools (PFS) in consultation with key private sector companies have developed a contract model to deliver the programme nationally. At the core is the creation of a joint venture between the local authority and a private sector partner known as a Local Education Partnership (LEP) that is responsible for procuring and delivering the schools and a wide range of services under the BSF programme. The LEP will, in effect, be a limited company with the private sector partner holding 80 per cent of the shares with the remainder equally split between the local authority and PFS/Department for Education & Science. The usual structure is shown in the diagram below.

The LEP will deliver the individual school projects via a mix of traditional contracts and PFI. In a PFI, the LEP will form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to facilitate the actual delivery. However, not every secondary school will be rebuilt, those in a very good condition maybe subject to a degree of refurbishment/upgrading.

The actual delivery of the BSF programme within a local authority will be split into two or three phases depending on the size of the portfolio and national programme commitments. Private Sector Partners (PSPs) will be appointed for between 10-15 years and be very proactive in the development and delivery of a strategic investment programme including the provision, integration and management of the supply chain. During the procurement the PSPs will provide detailed costs for a sample of the schools to be addressed in phase 1 that will indicate their ability to be competitive in the following phases. There is no pre-conceived idea of who will or should be a PSP. It does not have to be a major construction company or indeed a firm of professional or educational advisors. It could be a major FM supplier who has the size, ambition and resources to provide and effectively manage the required supply chain. This is huge opportunity for the FM sector to demonstrate their abilities.

The LEP model allows for either:
....Integrator PSPs who do not come with a preferred supply chain but would seek to drive value for money by market testing the supply chain for each new project; or
....Integrated PSPs who bring a preferred supply chain with whom they would work over a number of phases, and use this long term supply chain relationship (and the high volume of pipeline work) to drive value for money solutions.

Key areas for improvement are security through better access design and general security, and information communications technology (ICT). Modern schools need state of the art technology capable of being upgraded and developed as fast as the ICT industry itself develops. The BSF LEP model has been structured in such a way as to encourage the ICT to be procured on a complete package deal basis, to include infrastructure, hardware, software, maintenance, general support and upgrading.

Traditional learning has undergone a major revolution with more variety and ways to facilitate learning. Learning by doing encompasses active, hands-on, problem-based and project-orientated learning scenarios. Wireless technology, web-based projects, smart boards, haptic technology and digital projectors will become commonplace in the schools of the future. The FMs working in these new learning environments need a strategy for providing facilities that respond to and support this continuously changing technology and curriculum developments.

The expectations of the BSF include better value for money through outputs to encourage innovation, buying a service with payment for availability of facilities and services, better riskmanagement and a long term maintenance strategy protected from future funding cuts. School buildings will have larger classrooms, larger dining halls, more storage, improved heating and ventilation and use of natural light, and they will be more adaptable and with wider corridors.

The BSF programme is a once in a lifetime opportunity for FMs to get it right and we must ensure that FM industry does. There is and will be for some years to come a large demand for a whole range of first class FM services in the education sector delivering innovation by bringing valuable learning from other sectors. FMs can also keep contracts simple avoiding need for excessive management input on monitoring, educate the client to become better informed and educate the FMs in whole life costs, risk management, vandalism, security, specialist equipment, relationships to pedagogy and technology issues. It’s a chance for us all to get passionate about improving educational processes and resources for our children, and for the FMs of the future.

....Jane Wiggins is Chair, BIFM Education Sector Forum and Programme Manager at BPP Malpas and John Houlihan is Associate Director of Augmentis Integrated Services with responsibility for the Education Sector. This article is based on their joint presentation at FM Expo 2004. The BIFM Education Forum is a new group for Members working in the education sector

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