The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Masters

Premises management brick by brick

Alas, for many SBMs, this summer holiday will involve more contractors and collateral warranties than camping and cruises. Check out our expert advice to help your building projects run smoothly.

I’m starting to think that school business managers might actually be superhuman. Not only do they have one of the most complex and challenging roles, but they also appear never to have a break.

When I recently asked a group of SBMs what nice plans they had for the summer holidays they nearly fell off their chairs laughing. ‘A break? I’m going to working all summer!,’ one exclaimed. ‘I have so much catching up to do: recruitment, HR, finance, budget reviews and building maintenance to work through.’ Another said: ‘I need to do policy and procedure writing, staff handbook, absence management and managing building projects…’ The list went on.

It seems that the challenges never end. So, to make your lives a little easier, we’ve cherry-picked some expert advice from our new Premises Maintenance Toolkit. Hopefully this will help make life a little easier and less stressful… and even create some time to enjoy your break!

Increasingly complex

Every school has a duty to ensure that buildings under their control comply with appropriate statutory, regulatory and corporate standards. However, this task is becoming increasingly complex, onerous and difficult due to current legislation.

Check out this expert advice from lawyers, practitioners and SBM consultants.

  1. Prepare a detailed assessment of the risks and impediments (internal and external) to implementation and develop a strategy for addressing them. Assess the risk in view of both the likelihood and consequence of any event occurring
  2. Ensure your school has the opportunity to approve the identity and terms of appointment of the key consultants and sub-contractors, including the terms of collateral warranties
  3. Ensure the developer has ongoing obligations to rectify defects during an initial (minimum) 12 month rectification period, backed by a retention which the school can use if the developer defaults.
  4. Have a right to charge liquidated damages ('LADs') for each week's delay. (LADs must be a genuine pre-estimate of loss, not a penalty).
  5. Enable the school to require variations to the specification without prohibitive additional cost.
  6. Hold community open days and Q&A sessions to help neighbours (who might be affected by any changes) stay informed and keep open lines of communication.
  7. Ensure your lone working policy and health and safety policy are signed by all staff each year. Optimus Education have a range of relevant model policies.
  8. Do benchmark to see what other schools are spending on premises staff and other expenditure.
  9. Ensure your school’s asbestos register contains a copy of the asbestos survey which shows where in the premises asbestos has been identified or is suspected.
  10. When deciding on contractors, remember to check: are they quoting on materials and job, or within a timescale? Can they fit around other contractors such as electricians, plumbers, plasterers and decorators? Have you sought assurances from the contractors that they will monitor their staff, looking into gaps in working, criminal records and so on?

With thanks to: Veale Wasbrough Vizards, Valerie Hopkins, Cate Hart and Nazli Hussein

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