Making a difference with the School Condition Allowance
Trust schools at this time of year are preparing to welcome students back for the new academic year which includes the completion of estates work over the Summer break. The key is to achieve the appropriate balance between spending budget, delivering quality solutions, and not over stretching contractors so that schools are ready for the start of term.
The eight schools in the Three Rivers portfolio are all unique but do suffer from some common issues related to the age of the buildings.
Energy efficiency is a challenge especially as zero carbon targeting becomes more and more important.
Replacing building elements, such as roofs and windows, when the costs of repairs and maintenance become too significant.
Ensuring user safety alongside older building specifications which included materials such as asbestos.
This all means that once the safety and building condition needs are met it can be difficult to create a budget for projects with an education focus. However over the past few years the Trust has benefited from successful applications to the Department for Education (DfE), Condition Improvement fund (around £7m over 5 years) and is now entitled to an annual capital allowance from the DfE via the School Condition Allowance (around £2.7m over 3 years). Of course other sources of non government funding have also supported the schools such as Sport England.
Most of the schools have now benefited from replacement of flat roofs, windows, boilers and heating systems, electrical infrastructure and lighting, ICT infrastructure, catering unit upgrades, toilets and refurbishment of floors and decoration. The Trust estates strategy of prioritising the key safety and condition issues has also enabled a focus on education projects.
King Edward VI School - Athletics track and field, Advanced Study Centre - extension and refurbishment, Music block upgrade, science labs refurbishment, multiple classroom refurbishment
Newminster Middle School - ICT lab refurbishment, science labs refurbishment, new classrooms, new music block
Chantry Middle School - Science lab refurbishment, multi use games area, sports hall upgrade, multiple classroom refurbishment
Dr Thomlinson Middle School - lighting upgrade and electrical infrastructure replacement, multiple classroom refurbishment
Abbeyfields First School - Outdoor Education Centre, multiple classroom refurbishment, toilet block refurbishment
Stobhillgate First School - 4 classroom refurbishment and heating upgrade
Thropton first School - whole school refurbishment
Harbottle First School - multiple classroom refurbishment
All these projects would not have been possible without the Trusts amazingly hard working and skilled School Business Managers to plan, monitor and deliver each project.
Whilst much progress has been made the struggle to maintain the high quality schools that our staff and students are entitled to will need to continue until the DfE and/or local government consider the Trust schools to be at the top of their new build investment priorities. The senior Trust staff are in constant negotiation with both organisations to move our schools up the list however with little new build funding available and many schools in worse condition than Trust schools the wait may be longer than any of us would like.