Thursday, 14 February 2008

BSF - Things I have learnt

Yesterday was a bad BSF day. I'll resist the temptation to post about it until I know I can avoid e-hissy-fitting. The highlight was one of the team-members delightfully describing a particularly messy cabling job as a "snakes wedding". So, instead of entertaining readers with the details of yesterdays meetings, I thought I'd pull together a list of tips for the BSF uninitiated. I began pulling it together during one of the meetings yesterday. Some of the suggestions are things that may have prevented us being where we are now. See if you can spot which.

Be clear what you want: From the outset. It sounds obvious, but you really need to be clear. What do you consider good disabled access, for example. I don't think "Visions" are terribly helpful here. They're too woolly.

Manage Expectations: The problem with "Visions" is that stakeholders will come up with brilliant ideas that they won't get and they will then be disappointed. We never really expected a school farm (yes, a member of staff asked for that), but teachers had hoped for a classroom each.

Pay Attention to the Outline Business Case: If it's not in there you'll have a fight on your hands. Don't just assume that it will be in there because you've asked for it to go in. You will constantly be referred to the OBC, in particular it's reference scheme, the area schedule and room data sheets. If I was a bidder, that's exactly what I'd do too. We all need fixed goalposts.

In fact, just pay attention!: It's easy to drift off and miss something important (maybe while writing a list of tips, for example).

Expect the Unexpected: Even with the best of preparation stuff will appear. Examples for us include £1.5m of sprinklers due to a change in law (I think we won't have to do that), planning insisting on doubling the number of bike spaces to 249, and some wretched problems with levels.

Push for the Room Data Sheets & Legal Agreements at an Early Stage: They form the basis of the contract. If you get things that may be tricky too late in the day there are likely to be problems with timing.

Get Independent Legal Advice Early.

Be Clear What's Agreed: We have had a few instances where we have all thought we've agreed, but on different things. Things will be tricky enough without this.

Try & Make Sure there's one Person who Attends all Meetings: At SNS that person is me. I know it means I was bad in a previous life, but I really think it's invaluable.

Trips aren't that Enlightening: But you can get good lunches.

Choose Your Battles.

You will need more D&B Meetings than you think and fewer of all the other types: At least that's my experience. It would be interesting to hear if people involved in other projects think that too. I suspect the balance will shift radically once services start.

Keep in Touch with other Schools in your Phase: Occasional joint meetings are really helpful.

Be Clear About Who's Doing What with Decant: For example, if your ICT decant is dependent on you buying interim services, what happens if you don't?

Everyone has a Different Agenda: School interests are not the same as anyone elses who's involved in the project.

Everyone Wants the Same Thing: This doesn't really contradict the above. Ultimately everyone really wants the project to work and to happen on time. It should be in everyone's interests.

Maintain Good Relations: I genuinely like most of the people involved in BSF in Hackney. Occasionally we have to have a bit of a skirmish, but it's important to stay professional, keep communication channels open and re-build bridges. There's a lot of pressure on all of us.

Sorry if a lot of that is obvious, but if I'd known then what I know now...

Monday, 4 February 2008

Greetings Edugeek!

Well I wondered why I'd had a few comments from visitors who were obviously concerned about the ICT side of BSF, and now I know. Welcome to anyone popping by who's followed the link from Edugeek.

I've been an occasional Edugeek lurker for a couple of years now. Our Network Manager and I met Tony (Grumbledook) at BETT 2006, having spent the day complaining bitterly about the ICT aspect of BSF to anyone who'd listen. At the time it was clear many people didn't know what on earth we were talking about. If they'd heard of BSF they didn't know what it meant for ICT. What a difference two years makes. Anyway, since then I've been checking the Edugeek BSF forums pretty frequently. It was partly because I realised how valuable it was to be able to communicate with others involved in various stages of the same process, even if you don't agree with them, that I started this blog. As you can probably tell, I'm working on all aspects of BSF at our school, but I've never managed to find any kind of "BSF Champion" (for that is indeed what they call me) community. A few months on, and I still haven't. If anyone knows where I can find one, please let me know.

With regard to the ICT aspect of BSF, a trawl through this blog will probably give you an overview of my feelings. To summarise, it's been the most painful aspect of the whole process for us as a school. We're pretty proud of our ICT provision, and the prospect of having our Network Manager (and potentially other team members) surgically removed is one of the worst aspects of a pretty awful process. For us in Hackney, and I believe this to be the case in all other BSF areas, the ICT is a non-negotiable part of BSF. The big question has therefore always been "Is the pain worth the gain?" We're getting £18m of sorely needed capital investment, but sometimes we've been very close to pulling out, and we still haven't made any final commitment. That said, working with RM has been far more positive than I had expected it to be, and we now know pretty much where we are with the ICT offer, even if we would have preferred not to be there.

Anyway, thanks for dropping in. Hope you'll come again soon. I'm more than happy to answer any questions if anyone's interested in getting a "BSF Champion" perspective on things.