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How schools can benefit from better outsourcing

Matt Garner, Managing Director, Schools by Sodexo explains

Posted by Rob Bertels | January 18, 2018 | Facilities & buildings

As more and more schools are encouraged to join Multi-Academy Trusts, the leadership teams of those organisations are grappling with issues around collaboration, standardisation and a collective drive to raise attainment.

In that respect, there are similarities with the corporate world in which global businesses are continually looking to streamline, become more efficient and reduce the bottom line.

Many businesses benefit from outsourcing of support services, such as catering, facilities management and asset management, as a way of allowing them to focus on their core activity, whether that be drilling for oil, researching the latest drugs or creating next generation software.

Multi Academy Trusts exist to drive academic success and improve standards, and, especially for those who have taken on failing schools, they are under a lot of pressure to do so quickly.

In the past, schools have been naturally cynical and suspicious of outsourcing services to the private sector, and of course it is up to the outsourcer to prove their social value, but at a time when school leaders need to focus ever more acutely on educational outcomes, there is definite value in using a specialist services company to deliver non-educational, but essential and sometimes safety critical tasks.

A recent report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Better Spaces for Learning #TopMarkSchools, suggests that new schools commissioned by central government are not delivering value for money. The report states that ‘Good school buildings have a significant and positive impact on pupil behaviour, engagement, wellbeing and attainment’ and also that ‘up to £150 million is being spent annually on unnecessary services and maintenance which could have been avoided if schools were better designed.” But budgetary pressures often lead to a short-term, fragmented approach to estate strategy.

There’s no doubt in our minds that the quality, design and upkeep of school facilities can have a positive impact on educational outcomes, and we feel we have a job to do to help educate the education sector on the value of estate strategy.

Sodexo works with groups of schools across the country bringing together services as diverse as catering, cleaning, building and grounds maintenance, security and engineering across multiple sites. Headteachers and principals benefit from having one point of contact for all services, saving time and money. For MATs, who are looking to standardise processes across a group of schools, there is a clear benefit in having a services company who can help with the ‘big picture’ – for example deliver energy savings across the school estate, support uptake of school meals particularly by those children who are recipients of Pupil Premium/ entitled to free school meals across multiple schools, or manage community use of school facilities.

We provide helpdesks to groups of schools as a centralised, efficient way of reporting issues such as leaking roofs or broken windows. These helpdesks provide a consistent 24/7/365 service, increasing first time fix rate, reducing school costs and providing rapid/swift, better, more consistent and coherent services. And at the same time, the data processed by the helpdesk, forms the basis for reporting to the management team, providing schools with knowledge and insight to inform and drive strategic decisions and directions to improve the performance and cost effectiveness of their estates.

There’s no doubt in our minds that the quality, design and upkeep of school facilities can have a positive impact on educational outcomes, and we feel we have a job to do to help educate the education sector on the value of estate strategy.

A school is a very different environment to an office block. Taking care of facilities as diverse as sports grounds and halls, to science labs, to dining halls and, of course, classrooms, can be challenging, as can managing delivery of services during the school day. But ultimately our services are based around people – and working closely with our client organisation to deliver services that will improve quality of life.

Well-maintained surroundings, properly managed sports facilities and clean, efficient buildings all contribute to a better environment, school reputation and ultimately lead to improved outcomes for the whole school community. 

Schools by Sodexo will running a seminar looking at successful integrated facilities management in schools at the Academies Event on the 28th February.

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