It is a school's fundamental duty to nurture every pupil. And when they succeed, these institutions can inspire a lifetime of learning. But with reports of thousands of Government-maintained school buildings in England needing urgent care, there are fears that this solid grounding could be compromised. This is why the Department for Education's (DfE) Condition Data Collection (CDC) programme was developed. Tasked with gathering evidence on the physical condition of every school building in England, the programme helps to identify those most in-need of investment. But with more than 22,000 schools across the country needing to be assessed, how could such a large and complex programme be mobilized?
As Technical Services Manager for the biggest school condition survey in Europe, our task to launch and oversee the survey programme was monumental.
We started by establishing a multi-faceted Programme Management Office (PMO), supported by a team with expert technical knowledge and a deep understanding of education sector needs. This was a departure from how the predecessor programme had been run, but we were confident that bringing together an integrated team would mean we were better placed to respond to the unique and complex challenges of a programme of this scale and complexity.
Our role included providing programme management, undertaking quality assurance, developing investment models, providing technical leadership, maintaining technical standards and monitoring the performance of the four appointed surveying organisations, all whilst working in close collaboration with the DfE.
It was no small task, but in less than three months, we had created the operational structure and trained an initial 200 surveyors and engineers to start the survey programme. We had also conducted a pilot survey exercise and launched the IT application that would support data capture, analysis and reporting.
This groundwork paved the way for the next three years, during which data was collected on the physical condition of more than 22,000 schools across the country. At its peak, the programme was surveying more than 1,100 schools every month, with a team of over 520 surveyors and engineers focused on providing a robust and reliable evidence base to help the DfE with its decision making.
On time, on budget
The programme was heralded as a success for the DfE, having been delivered on-time, on-budget and to a high quality. It has helped to ensure that every pound of funding counts, providing the DfE with a robust evidence base so that investment can be targeted to where it is needed most.
The response from schools and the positive engagement from other important stakeholders further underlines the programme’s success. Over 1,400 schools formally responded to a request for feedback, with 89% providing a positive-neutral rating.
More than 8 million children are now guaranteed to be learning in the best possible environment and achieving their full potential.