1. What are the 3 most valuable lessons you have learnt in managing school expansion and foundation projects?
a) Be as flexible as you can with your staffing model so that you can accommodate under or over subscription in a particular year group in your first three years.
b) Manage the school opening as a phased approach over two-to-three years.
c) Don’t skimp on educational resources in the classrooms, ICT facilities etc… – an empty school at opening is a very hard school top ‘sell’ to prospective parents. The spend on educational resources, books, ICT, displays etc.. is a fraction of your staffing cost for year 1 but play a crucial role in ensuring the school looks vibrant and sells itself to prospective parents from day 1 of opening.
2. With space being a constraint on education facility design and construction, what design principals did you apply in your school expansion and foundation projects to ensure that facilities were able to meet future needs?
Simply be as versatile as possible with your design of rooms- try to make every room a multi use space. Can open plan offices the same dimensions as classrooms be built with a very limited number of single office spaces too. This will make your rooming more versatile and future proof. High speed full coverage wifi across the school could mean the end of conventional ICT labs which would make space more versatile. Limiting the number of dedicated single use spaces such as science labs will again future proof the building.
3. What were the main strategies you used to ensure school projects were delivered on schedule and on budget?
Ensure all stakeholders are involved from as early as possible in the decision making process. Most delays and overspends are due to the emergence of a ‘a late appointment’ Principal, Board of Governors or Bursar (or all three!) who wants to make changes to initial plans
4. What would you say are the 3 key points in effectively managing school expansion and foundation projects?
a) Experienced senior leaders who have previously managed large scale school change/expansion or start up given the authority and trust to make decisions on behalf of the company from the outset
b) Do not over-estimate pupil numbers at the outset. Budget for lower numbers and then overfill the school!
c) ensure the decision makers are working in the school