Friday, 27 June 2008

Something Interesting on Edugeek

At the risk of looking like I'm developing the habit of getting other people to write my posts for me, here's something I just spotted on Edugeek:

I'll certainly be keeping an eye on progress here, as I'm sure will many others involved in BSF. If the school stands its ground and either pulls out or forces a change in ICT policy, there's a huge house of cards waiting to fall.

It's very hard to look the BSF Gift Horse in the mouth, but we have been close on a number of occasions. Handing our ICT over and losing our Network Manager (and eventually one other member of the ICT team) is the area that's always caused us the greatest concern. I think PfS know that many schools wouldn't do it willingly, which is why it is compulsory and would involve schools turning down millions of pounds of capital investment if they reject it. There have been times when we were really concerned that the proposed designs for the school didn't work and were poor value for money. We did some back of an envelope calculations and reckoned that over the 30 years of project life we would almost (but not quite) pay back all of the capital investment in additional ICT and FM costs.

Why didn't we pull out? The bottom line for us is that our roof hasn't been replaced in 40 years. Amazingly the week of the decant two ceilings finally gave up the ghost and bits of them caved in. Roof replacement alone was estimated at close to £1 million pounds. On top of that every winter when the heating gets turned on for the first time at least three of our very aged radiators leak. Half the radiators are stuck on or off so walking around the school is like wandering the many rooms of a spa treatment centre, but without the fluffy towels. Again, the heating system is as old as the school. I have no idea what replacement costs for the heating system would be, but it's going to be big money. Add to this the fact that some of the windows look as if they'd fall out if you sneeze in their direction (in fact on of the 6th form windows did fall in a while back) and the fact that anyone with a mobility problem can't make it past the reception and you can see the reason we're probably going to take the money. Despite all this I honestly think that, if the designs and other aspects of the project (including ICT proposals) hadn't improved, we would have pulled out and got the roof done by putting the school through a few years of financial hell.

Now for the rant, so feel free to skip a paragraph. If schools had proper capital investment over the past few decades, then we wouldn't be making this Faustian pact. A couple of times I've been told this is happening because schools don't direct their budgets properly. Unsurprisingly this makes me a little irate. Schools have only managed their own capital funding for around five years, which was never going to compensate for years of neglect. Just when we're sorting out our ICT networks, courtesy of specialist school ICT staff, and developing long-term capital plans, along comes BSF.

Now we still haven't signed up officially, despite half our school already been decanted/dug up/pulled to bits. There are still some pretty major concerns that need to be sorted out, and Governors won't sign the Governing Body Agreement until they are completely satisfied that they can live with what is being proposed. Hats off to the Head at Tollbar. It's a brave and bold move, but, if they hold firm, probably one someone needs to make. Presumably their school roof's not in imminent danger of caving in.

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