Thursday, 31 January 2008

Feeling Guilty

I'm feeling guilty because I haven't posted for almost two weeks, and I had aimed to post at least once a week. In the early blog honeymoon period I was posting at least twice a week. I'm keen not to let this drift too far, because I know that there are regular readers who use the blog to keep up to date with how things are at Stoke Newington. Oddly (or maybe not) I'm also pretty sure that the blog is not particularly read by parents of students at the school. The blog was originally established as a means of communicating developments frequently with parents, and it was well publicised. Even a recent reminder in Spotlight (our school newsletter) hasn't increased traffic to the blog in any significant way. I'm not sure I'd regularly read a school blog about BSF, though.

Anyway, one of the other reasons I haven't blogged for a while is that we seem to have hit a slow patch. When I look at my post from early January, nothing much has changed. The outstanding issues remain outstanding, although I'd like to think there is all sorts of furious work going on in the background. On top of that we are trying to unravel the fact that it seems the school will be responsible for moving ICT into the temporary accommodation, which is far more expensive, time consuming and complicated than it sounds. There is also an ongoing issue of market-testing for best value.

I think everyone's getting pretty fed up now, and it's fair to say we had a pretty grumpy D&B meeting last week. We had thought that Governors would meet mid-February to take a final decision, but that's almost certainly going to slip. Until Governors make that final decision there's a lot of uncertainty, particularly for staff who may transfer to the LEP. We had hoped that we would move to BSF services from April, which fits neatly around the financial year, but I can't see any way of that happening now. This makes budget planning for next year difficult, and there are lots of other things, such as the move, that we can't put in motion until we know we're joining the programme. My particular dread is that the construction programme will slip. We really have to make the move into temporary accommodation over the Whitsun break, or something already complicated and difficult will become a logistical nightmare.

On the positive side, I have managed to do a fair amount of non-BSF work for a few days. Go on, ask me anything about HR policies!

Meeting Count 2/11/07 - 31/01/08 Forty-four - it's all slowed down a bit recently

Monday, 14 January 2008

Fun at BETT

Last week I went to the BETT exhibition for a day, accompanied by Nick, our Network Manager. Between us we spent a fair amount of time being excited by things, a bit of time sneering and a bit of time grumbling at someone from PfS who wasn't hugely receptive (all we want is for it to be less painful for other schools).

You've probably realised through my posts that BSF has caused me innumerable mood swings that aren't attributable in any way to my time of life. I veer from excitement to despair to blind panic to boredom, passing most moods in between. BETT mostly made me feel pretty excited again. Our idea is that during the decant phase we put something new and a bit experimental into each temporary room, the idea being that:

a) It's something to sweeten the pill of moving.
b) We won't put stuff that doesn't work/people don't like into the finished classrooms.

We found a good few exciting bits and bobs, some of which are even RM products. We found:

We also got oranges with the BBC logo branded onto them, but I don't expect we'll get them under BSF. Anyway, as you can probably tell it all made me feel that there might be some fun to be had. I think we've got enough bits and pieces in mind now to put something new into most rooms. Let's hope MPB and RM are up for it, and we've got freedom to drop in a few bits and pieces of our choice without being contractually constrained.

As an aside Nick saw something that actually made him grin very broadly and literally jump for joy. I'm not a teccy, but basically it was like a giant i-phone whiteboard but PC based. He says no-one can have one in the school until the existing whiteboards collapse with exhaustion, though, and that's probably going to be quite some time yet, but it's something to look forward to.

Meeting Count 2/11/07 - 17/01/08 Forty-one - they've started back in earnest

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Normal Service Resumes

Well it's a new year, we're all back at work and it's time to return from the blog-break.

We're now about to freeze the designs so they can be fully costed and presented to Governors for sign-off. First thing this morning I therefore removed the display panels in the foyer showing the BSF proposals and it struck me how much has been amended during the consultation process. A few weeks ago the architects happened to mention there had been 87 alterations to the plans since the final bid submission. We must now be over the 100 mark. Some of these changes are minor (e.g. removing a small partition), some are quite major (e.g. the ever changing superloos). The vast majority are due to consultation at various levels. The landscaping and elevations have also changed considerably, and thank goodness for that!

Not everyone had a break over christmas. The BSF project director was apparently e-mailing on Christmas Day. We received an e-mail from him on the 28th telling us that additional funding has been found to allow us the proposed core-ten elevations, which was really good news. You've probably gathered that things have really moved on, and I think we're reaching a point where we could recommend acceptance of proposals to the Governing Body. There are a few fairly major outstanding issues, though:

  • Room Data Sheets: We've been strongly advised by a number of people who know about such things that we should not agree final sign-up until we have been through every single room in detail to establish that we're getting what we need and resolve any difficulties. We currently have a bit of an issue about availability of staff drink making facilities, and I'm sure this won't be the only matter that needs to be thrashed out a bit. I must admit the idea of going through each room in this level of data fills me (and presumably anyone else involved, some of whom may have to sit through the process with 3 schools) with dread, but I can absolutely see it's something that has to be done.
  • Legal Agreement: There was a lot of work outstanding here, but I gather there has again been a lot of progress over the past 2/3 weeks. Basically the Governing Body Agreement refers to lots of other legal documents that weren't finalised. We have been advised not to sign until we have a full understanding of the contents of these documents which are, of course, enormous and a bit impenetrable. Luckily the Learning Trust has funded some extremely helpful solicitors to do most of the reading and interpretation for us.
  • Accessibility: Disabled Access was highlighted as a major priority at an early stage. It's the stated aim of the Governing Body never to have to turn a child away from the school again. We are waiting to meet with an independent consultant who we would like to look at the plans and make recommendations if necessary. Of course, if they make lots of recommendations this could delay design freeze. The architects are pretty confident about the proposals which are certainly an enormous improvement on the current situation, but we would feel more comfortable hearing what a specialist has to say.
  • Decant and Phasing: There remains a fair bit of work to do here.
Of course there are a few other minor bits and pieces, but I think that's a fair summary of the situation.

And as for my break... I carried loads of BSF work home to do over the break, and carried it all back again completely untouched! I did, however, read the "Honeywood File" as recommended via a comment on this blog. It's a fictional account of a building project reported through the letters filed by the architect. It's about 80 years old, but could have been written today. Some parts are laugh out loud funny. It's out of print and was a bit tricky to get hold of, but my copy's about to go out on lending rotation, so if anyone wants to borrow it let me know.

Meeting Count 2/11/07 - 21/12/07 Thirty-four (there was only one in the last week of term). First BSF meeting of 2008 is due to be held tomorrow.