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Watts Sector Focus Bulletin - Academies

In the last 12 months, by opting to become academies, more than 1,000 schools have decided to take greater control over their future. This is an exciting and progressive step and one that Watts, as a property consultant working with many education authorities around the country, has seen empower schools to raise standards. Academy status also gives schools the opportunity to ensure they get maximum value for their available budget.

Watts’ work with schools going through this process has largely been focused on helping them get the most from their revenue budgets, while accepting that capital budgets are tight. As the James Review pointed out earlier this year, maintenance and refurbishment schedules should be carefully planned and works prioritised to make the most of existing premises and prevent further deterioration while there is scant funding for new build projects or building replacement programmes. This ensures work is carried out in an efficient and cost-effective way and removes the risk of unexpected costs.

In this first issue of the Watts Academies Focus Bulletin we look at a range of property-related issues that will impact schools now and in the future. We hope you will find it both interesting and informative.

John Wrightson
Watts Group PLC


Watts Sector Focus Bulletin - Academies

Maintenance is key, says James Review

In July the Government published its initial response to the James Review of Education Capital. The review looked at how the Department for Education could achieve better value for money and improve efficiency via capital investment in schools. Many of the review’s recommendations are expected to be accepted, subject to a consultation due to close in October.

Academies Main Sep 11

The review recommended reform of the capital allocation system so that investment is focused on the condition of buildings first. “Sharper accountabilities for maintaining buildings and better procurement routes ...will help ensure that the current estate is able to deliver for our children in the decades ahead,” said report author Sebastian James in a letter to education secretary Michael Gove.

The review argued that schools should take responsibility for their own maintenance. Rather than replacing school buildings, vast amounts of money could be saved if they are not allowed to fall into disrepair.

The report also urged making “best use of professional expertise” to ensure that best use is made of school budgets. James pointed to the failure of the Building Schools for the Future programme to spend funding wisely, largely due to the fact that the “Government has not ensured that contracts are always negotiated by those who have the appropriate expertise”.

The review made a number of key recommendations. These include:

  • Carrying out independent building condition surveys on a rolling 20% sample of the estate;
  • Revising and simplifying school premises regulations;
  • Reducing bureaucracy around BREEAM assessments; and
  • Promoting standardised design

“We must have a system for school building which is much simpler, less bureaucratic, and which targets priority projects,” the review has concluded.

For more information, contact Dave Dorrington, Director at Watts Group, on 020 7280 8000.

To download the consultation document, go to www.education.gov.uk

The Watts Bulletin is the technical companion to the Watts Pocket Handbook, the essential guide to property and construction, as used by professionals since 1983.

Watts Bulletin editor: Trevor Rushton.