Reflecting & Planning: Maximising School Compliance

19th July 2023

Reflecting on a Successful Academic Year: Estates and Premises Teams in UK Schools & Colleges

As another academic year comes to a close, it can be very easy to roll up your sleeves, put the gloves on and start getting on with all the summer projects. But before you do, it is probably the best time pause and reflect on the year’s performance. This is an opportunity to evaluate key aspects of work such as health and safety, remedial works, and planned preventative maintenance. By conducting an accurate review, schools can celebrate achievements, identify areas for improvement, and lay the groundwork for an even better year ahead. I’ll discuss six ways estates and premises teams can make the most of this reflection time.

1. Health and Safety First

Ensuring a safe and secure learning environment is paramount for any school. Take a moment to assess your health and safety protocols and their effectiveness throughout the academic year. Review incident reports (including the unicorn that is the ‘Near Miss’ reports), risk assessments, and the implementation of any preventive measures. Celebrate the successful implementation of safety procedures, such as fire drills and emergency response plans. Identify any areas that may require further attention, such as updating risk assessments, enhancing staff training, or addressing maintenance issues that impact safety.

2. Remedial Works Evaluation

Over the course of the academic year, estates and premises teams have likely tackled a range of remedial works, from repairing major infrastructure to resolving maintenance issues. Reflect on the effectiveness and efficiency of these works. Consider the response time, quality of repairs, and feedback received from staff and students. Celebrate successful resolutions and acknowledge the efforts of the team. Identify any recurring issues that need to be addressed more comprehensively or areas where more proactive maintenance is required. Report data from systems can often identify that pesky boiler that causes you most of the effort and money spent in the year; maybe it’s time to replace and not keep fixing?

3. Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) Assessment

Scheduled maintenance plays a crucial role in preventing unexpected breakdowns, maximising equipment lifespan, and ensuring smooth operations. Evaluate the execution and impact of your PPM plan throughout the year. Review the adherence to maintenance schedules, the effectiveness of planned tasks, and the resulting impact on the school's infrastructure. Celebrate achievements such as reduced downtime, energy savings, or improved functionality due to proactive maintenance. Identify any gaps or missed opportunities and consider adjustments for the upcoming year. Get some honest feedback about workloads and assess whether there are some time savings possible by consolidating jobs, upskilling, or contracting out. Your team’s time is precious, use it wisely.

4. Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Reflection also provides an excellent opportunity to capture lessons learned and best practices. Encourage your estates and premises team to share their insights and experiences from the academic year. These lessons can include innovative solutions to challenges, effective communication strategies, or successful collaborations with other departments such as IT or administration. Documenting these experiences fosters a culture of continuous improvement and enables future teams to build upon successes.

5. Planning for the Future

Armed with the insights gained from reflecting on the academic year, estates and premises teams can now develop a plan for the future. Set new goals, establish priorities, and create an action plan for the upcoming academic year. Implement improvements based on the areas identified during the reflection process. Consider incorporating feedback from staff and students to align the plan with their needs and expectations. Remember, flexibility is key, as unforeseen circumstances always arise, requiring adjustments along the way.

One big thing to review alongside planning for the future is how the work of estates and premises teams aligns with School Improvement Plans or equivalent. Do they play nicely together or are there conflicts in priorities? Are there glaring omissions in the estates plan that would result in something in the Improvement Plan not being achieved?

6. Celebrate Achievements

Finally, take the time to celebrate the achievements of your estates and premises teams. Acknowledge their hard work, dedication, and commitment to creating a safe and conducive learning environment. Share success stories with the school community, highlighting the positive impact of their efforts. Celebrating achievements boosts team morale and encourages a sense of pride and ownership in the work accomplished. Often their year is not the 39 or 40 academic weeks of the year, but all year round, an endless cycle of terms and an endless list of jobs to get through. And in September, it all starts again!

As the academic year draws to a close, estates and premises teams in schools and colleges have an invaluable opportunity to reflect on their performance. By assessing health and safety measures, evaluating remedial works, and reviewing planned preventative maintenance, schools can celebrate successes and identify areas for growth. Utilise this reflection period to learn, improve, and lay a solid foundation for an even more successful year ahead. Cheers to the dedicated education estates and premises teams across the UK!

Charles Ainslie, Operations Director (Education) at Civica