On February 3rd 2022, the DfE announced the next phase of its School Rebuilding Programme. In a change to the original selection process, through which the government chose schools eligible for the first one hundred projects, this time it’s up to responsible bodies. Academy trusts or local authorities have been empowered to nominate school buildings they believe are in the most need of major rebuilding works.
However, this power brings responsibility. How can trusts and authorities ensure they are submitting applications on behalf of the most urgent cases in their jurisdiction? Well, the recommendation that schools should approach their responsible body if they believe their building(s) are eligible for consideration is a welcome start. The prime catch? Provision of sufficient evidence.
Data: the key to a stronger bid
The DfE has said that their decisions as to which schools will benefit from the programme will be ‘largely informed by consistent data’ from previous condition data collections. As such, congruous data has fast become the programme’s foundation.
With schools and MATs alike now scrambling to gather historic and current condition reports, the ways in which they compile and store data have been thrust into the spotlight. For the organisations that already use digital recording systems, the task shouldn’t pose too many headaches. Data that is stored electronically is retrieved quickly, analysed clearly, and can be easily manipulated into the desired submission format(s). And that’s especially significant across multiple sites, too; a trust with a centralised data store can pull relevant information from numerous schools from one place, aiding comparison of different buildings’ states.
For instance, the condition of different blocks at different sites is likely to follow the same scoring system, like RAG-ratings. Immediately, the user has an overview of the types and urgencies of issues across each site, allowing them to effectively differentiate the blocks that should be submitted to the programme.
Conversely, where required information is still stored in paper-based systems, there are a whole host of factors that could provoke missing the submission deadline. Firstly, the time it takes to source the desired data, especially trust-wide; multiple paper stores mean multiple site visits which only begin to be fruitful if the documents haven’t been misplaced or moved. Secondly, the exercise of comparing schools’ data to determine which building blocks are most in need of rebuilding. The task of manually comparing numerous reports written to different criteria is complex; information can’t be compared in a linear manner.
The final hurdle
Whilst submitting evidence of a block’s current state is a major piece of the puzzle, it’s not the only one with influence. The host of additional supporting information, like records of other capital works that have taken place since the CDC1 visit and any future planned projects (including funding nominations), must be detailed.
Where these activities and proposals have also been recorded in the same digital system, the school’s conversation with their responsible body becomes far more efficient and accurate. They can actively decrease the likelihood of not being considered for the programme because they simply did not have the right data to submit; essential information can be pin-pointed, extracted, and used in a bid to secure a successful nomination.
Routes to nomination
With the DfE already projecting that it expects to receive a significant number of nominations for the upcoming round of the programme, sensically it remains that buildings with the highest condition needs will remain priority. So, being able to differentiate survey data that details the requirement of a rebuild rather than localised remediation or maintenance works is also of great importance.
Block(s) of a school believed to require rebuilding can be put forward, with their information getting compared to that detailed in the site’s CDC1. Or, blocks can be submitted as an ‘exceptional case’, i.e. where condition has deteriorated to a degree where closure is imminent (if it hasn’t happened already).
Whichever nomination route your responsible body takes, those that submit with a bank of sufficient evidence and condition records are highly advantaged. And, with the DfE’s criteria for improvement programmes seemingly getting stricter year on year, employing a digital system that empowers access to critical data and evidential trails is fast becoming imperative. Prioritising the way your school/MAT stores and uses its data is key to ensuring the DfE prioritises your buildings’ conditions.
Our Condition Management Module is dedicated to improving visibility over your site’s condition.