Over the past decade, school premises management has seen many changes – from health and safety regulations to equipment and management systems. Campion Consultancy has been providing premises services since 2008, and has adapted to these changes and offered solutions to the challenges encountered along the way. Here Gillian Reynolds discusses some key areas
It’s no secret that budget cuts are causing outcry across the education sector, and have done so for many years now. With the general election just around the corner, education funding has become a point of contention between opposition parties – with headlines of big investment promises coming from all sides.
The effect of cuts to date has meant that schools have become savvy in their procurement process getting external agencies to ensure that mandatory HSE regulations and practices are followed. This has been a costly minefield for them.
Absorbing and delegating 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.
If the expertise, or the resources like time, are lacking within the school, premises management can be a service best rendered externally, and certainly something we recommend schools consider. Engaging the services of an external premises management company is like engaging an additional member of staff – but as the need presents itself.
For example, we place our experienced managers directly into the school or TUPE over existing staff. This saves the school in multiple ways, firstly from the cost of advertising and recruiting and secondly by managing our own staff and absorbing the on costs comparative to sourcing the role directly.
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.
There are small, but important, steps that your external service provider can take to ensure a quality service:
- Communication: For example, our operations manager visits the schools we work with regularly and liaises with the SBM and our staff member.
- Qualified staff: Having high quality staff that are computer literate, and fully trained ensures the smooth running of the school.
- But it is imperative that they are able to take on the mantle of testing, regulations and dealing with outside agencies and projected works. We rarely hear the term ‘caretaker’ now as the role has increasingly expanded and become vital from a health & safety perspective. We heard many horror stories of agency staff that had little or no experience in a school environment and though cheaper to employ were not safely managing the school premises.
Limiting your on costs
On costs play a huge factor as some boroughs have pension contributions as high as 30% which for many schools with staffing issues, is a serious problem. Having a year-round service free from worry about sickness and holiday cover was also an important concern.
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.