Outsourcing premises management; key to compliance?

When it comes to property management what’s your approach? Are you on the right side of compliance? Are you aware of the rules and regulations that your school is subject to? We consider the merits of outsourcing helpdesk facilities and employing a specialist property management company to help ensure you stay on the right side of the law

Over the past few years, as a school business manager, you’ll have seen your burden of responsibility for property management increase significantly – especially if you work in a MAT. In a school or academy, you may be responsible for geographically distant sites, so you need to trust on-site managers, caretakers and maintenance staff to know their responsibilities and ensure that students and staff are working in premises that are safe and conducive to learning.

The far-reaching impact of cuts

Schools have had to come to terms with a barrage of funding cuts, which has, inevitably, had an impact on the way schools are managed – it has also meant that schools have become savvy in their procurement processes. One such area is getting external agencies to ensure that mandatory HSE regulations and practices are followed, which Gillian Reynolds of Campion Consultancy says can be a costly minefield.

Managing additional premises responsibilities

“At Campion, we’ve found that SBMs are having to take on the burden of running the school premises, placing an enormous strain on their workloads. Keeping up to date with logs, records and testing plus the latest advice from the HSE was a headache for the SBM’s we were talking to,” Gillian says.

“Managing a schedule of repairs, refurbishments and maintenance for your school is time-consuming,” Robin Harris, client services director at ECO Integrated Property Solutions (IPS), says. However, where implemented effectively and comprehensively, it can keep your school health and safety compliant and can avoid costly, unforeseen – and not budgeted for – repairs.

To this end, where there’s a lack of expertise in this area within the school – or where it’s simply a matter of resources being over stretched – it may be worth considering an external company to co-ordinate and oversee any works in your schools’ premises. “Engaging the services of an external premises management company is like engaging an additional member of staff – but as the need presents itself,” Gillian advises.

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Up-to-date approach to premises

Whether you are conducting regular maintenance or a one-off project having the right support in place can be extremely beneficial. For example, it can come with the cutting-edge management software – cloud-based work management system that holds all reactive, planned and statutory compliance documents – you need.

Further, an outsourced helpdesk system will usually manage third-party activity, as relevant, ensuring that contractors are approved, gathering quotes and consolidating invoices in a single outgoing. “Our mantra is ‘record, document and store’ and we’re able to dedicate all of our time and specialist experience to overseeing contractor relations, ensuring work is executed, completing all necessary documentation and safe storage to deliver total compliance. It gives customers great peace of mind,” Robin says.

Be aware – get the right support

“Engaging any service comes with risks so, if considering going down this route, ensure that you vet the company first, and that they provide services that meet your needs, and your standards,” Gillian advises. Check that they are reputable, that they employ the right staff, are familiar with what it takes to manage a school premises – and the health and safety regulations that this comes with.

“From experience, I know that schools who opt to procure external premises services appreciate the continuity of service and the security of having a service level agreement in place. Our strategy has always been to listen to the issues our partner schools face and help alleviate their burden,” Gillian says.

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