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Update on School Operations

We partner with School and Academy Trust sector bodies The Confederation of School Trusts (CST)Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and The Trust Network (TTN)They continue to advocate hard on behalf of schools and trusts and are offering guidance and advice on operational issues.

Some key items are highlighted below.

Energy Bill Discount Scheme

On 10 January the government announced a longer-term approach to supporting businesses and public services with energy costs (Energy Bill Discount Scheme), which will replace the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme. You can read the guidance here. The Energy Bill Factsheet is here.

In summary, the good news is that a form of support will run until March 2024, which provides greater certainty over the next year or so and thus better supports planning. However, the significant downside is that the support is reduced compared to current support arrangements:

  • Schools that qualify will be those paying above a certain threshold – £107 per MWh for gas and £302 per MWh for electricity. (This compares to thresholds in the current plan of £75 per MWh for gas and £211 for electricity. This is likely to mean that fewer schools receive support).
  • There will be a cap on the unit discount of £6.97 per megawatt hour for gas and £19.61 per MWh for electricity.
  • Schools do not need to apply for their discount. As with the current scheme, suppliers will automatically apply reductions to the bills of all eligible non-domestic customers.

Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS)

DfE is asking all trusts to show how they are engaging with and implementing Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) as part of their SCA returns process and financial management. The Capital Advisers Programme (CAP) pilot is part of the DfE’s programme for developing and sharing best practice in estates management with the aims of

  • Making more efficient spending decisions
  • Improving building safety
  • Improving management of their accountability and statutory responsibilities for their school estate

To help you understand and implement this guidance, Barker can assist with GEMS Self-assessments and estates strategy workshops. Contact us for more information.

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)

The government published guidance on RAAC on 14 December 2022 which outlined a 5 stage process for education organisations to identify, assess and manage the incidence of RAAC within their buildings.

RAAC was used widely in schools, colleges from 1950s to mid 1990s and can compromise the structural stability and safety of structures where it is found.

Schools and trusts have been asked to report to DfE and take appropriate remedial action where RAAC has been found or is suspected.

Initially, sites can be assessed on a risk-assessed basis on age and construction type with some buildings requiring more detailed assessment by a specialist Structural Engineer.

Typical next steps can involve ongoing monitoring, propping or in extreme cases major repairs or rebuilding.

Barker can carry out an initial desktop assessment of your sites and follow up with Structural Engineer visits where required.

Detailed guidance on RAAC can be found HERE

Additional funding for 16-19 education

The government announced increased funding rates, described as an additional £125 million for schools, colleges and other providers delivering education to 16- to 19-year-olds next year (2023 to 2024). Read more here.

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