How the 2016 Budget statement impacts the education sector
There are currently around 25,000 schools in the UK providing education for approximately 9.5 million pupils. Overall expenditure on schools is £102billion, the third largest sector spend after Health and Social Protection. The spending on estates accounts for approximately 10% of the total.
This week’s budget has preserved funding for schools against a backdrop of budget cuts for other government departments. There was a commitment for all schools in England to become academies, or be on their way to becoming academies by 2020. The current academy conversion rate is around 1,000 per annum. The trajectory of schools converting to academies will have to change exponentially, to about 3,000+ per annum! This is a big undertaking and the potential rate of new academy applications will pressurise the process and therefore converting schools must ensure they are aware of their long term liabilities.
A converting school can become a single academy or part of a multi academy trust. It is true to say that an academy has more autonomy over its budget expenditure and curriculum, but it should carefully review the impacts when deciding on whether to ‘go it alone’ or be part of a multi academy trust. Whichever way a school decides to go, or is directed under the DfE transfer guidelines, the new board will attract new obligations over and above their existing responsibilities.
The EFA academies agreement sets out clear expectations for the estate management and future planning. The EFA’s guidance sets out requirements and reminds academy boards of their statutory estate responsibilities. It states that all school buildings should be kept in good condition, all relevant duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act should be complied with, including asbestos management. The academy/trust should have a detailed knowledge of the condition of their estate and have plans for its long term maintenance and renewal. The EFA also state that they will ask trusts to provide information on how they have used their estates funding each year.
Many of these requirements will be new to an academy or trust and they will have significant work in focusing on new HR, curriculum and service contracts. Estates could be the thing that loses focus given its previous ‘non-core’ role. Moving to academy status removes the safety net local authorities previously provided.
There will be a growing need for support to converting schools, academies and Multi Academy trusts to ensure their liabilities on transfer to academies are known and accounted for and their ongoing estate responsibilities are being met, not only to satisfy the EFA estate requirements, but also to protect the board in discharging its new legal liabilities.
The Asset Management, Surveying & Design Services framework can offer an estates service that is leading in the market, providing advice at all stages of conversion to academy status and operations. We have considerable expertise within the schools and higher education sector covering all service requirements from budget application, survey, design, sustainability, delivery and handover to operations. In addition, working with the Scape contractor partners, Kier and Wilmott Dixon, we are able to provide easy access to construction services to undertake any school expansion or capital maintenance project identified. Scape Procure has a demonstrable track record of providing excellent client value on time and to agreed budgets.
The move to full academy status is bold. The government states it will accelerate the schools’ reform and move to create a gold standard education throughout England. Through our shared vision, the Scape Procure partners are ready to work with schools and multi academy trusts to offer a cost effective and value add service to help achieve the government’s aims.
Terry StocksUK Head of Public Sector - Faithful+Gould
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