Focus of Fellowship

1 Oct 2019 | by Micon Metcalfe

Focus of Fellowship – Demonstrating Impact: Infrastructure

When you’re considering becoming a fellow, you have to demonstrate impact in a key area of the School Business Leadership and when I applied, I focused on infrastructure which is defined in the ISBL professional standards as follows:

‘Ensure the fundamental facilities and services necessary for the school/trust to function are maintained to drive sustainability, support teaching and learning excellence. Assist in expansion and support community engagement’

This is quite a broad definition and could cover a range of projects from small scale refurbishments, to major builds, to making Condition Improvement Fund bids, to ICT infrastructure projects, to writing business cases for expansion of age range, forms of entry or even growing Multi Academy Trusts. Not all of these will have explicit community engagement – but many will – from consultation with our pupil communities, to whole scale consultations for expansion projects or planning permission for building projects.

I’m sure that I am not the only school business leader who loves a project. Early on in my career, my CSBM (Level 4 diploma) case study was about the refurbishment of toilets within a school that had been due a major refurbishment which was cancelled. Not the most ‘sexy’ project but an aspect of school facilities that are frequently on school council agendas and definitely on many parents’ ‘must see’ bits on school tours. Even a small project like this can demonstrate all aspects of the professional standards – and it is a project that you can really get pupils/students involved in through choice of colours, or reminding you that things like hooks on the back of the doors are important, or looking at ways of saving water.

I have been lucky in my career to be involved in a wide range of projects funded through a variety of ways and ranging from a few thousand pounds to £25million. A large project is likely to have third party project management and quite often the client will be someone else: the local authority or the DfE. Smaller projects are the ones which can develop your project planning and programming techniques because they are often designed, procured and delivered in-house. The skills required for project delivery are the same, no matter what the size:

Planning and Specification: This is a key stage and can take a lot of time. No matter how the project is procured, it is worth spending time on planning it and being very specific about requirements. I ‘took over’ one design and build project where the room specifications had not been sufficiently defined. This led to services not being in the right place for whiteboard placement etc. Even with a design and build project, it is worth defining particular materials at the planning stage. On another project, I specified Corian for the classroom sinks and worktops and it was not value engineered out. Those sink tops are going to look good and last a long time!

Delivery: Decisions made after the planning stage can cause delays and cost money. Building works can be disruptive and there will have been some planning to mitigate this – but the reality is that someone may complain about the disruption and you or the contractors may be asked to stop work. This will almost certainly lead to added costs, and this is where the SBL will need to hold firm and manage expectations. The same applies to impulsive decisions to change the design.

Impact: There’s nothing better than seeing the finished project ‘live’. Walking round a new building or hearing feedback from colleagues and children about the new facilities, or showing them off at open days is magical. Not everything will have a visual or immediate impact but you can still feel  quietly proud of that new cabling that will speed up the IT or the rewiring that makes the building safe and have been delivered on time and in budget.