The leading asset management consultancy Currie & Brown has assembled a top team of advisers to provide a single-access service for groups considering plans to take up the coalition Government’s “Free Schools” scheme.
Currie & Brown, with years of experience in cost and project management, has pulled together a team of advisers from a range of disciplines, in a move aimed at offering a simple approach to partners of new school projects.
The Free Schools One-Stop Shop team will offer a fixed price feasibility package to groups of parents, teachers and others planning to create new schools in England. A similar package will be available to schools considering a switch to academy status.
The Free Schools programme is one of the major initiatives unveiled by Education Secretary Michael Gove. He wants locally-based groups – led by parents, teachers or others – to come up with proposals to create new schools in their areas. More than 700 such groups are reported to be considering plans across England, although it is less clear at this stage how many of them will proceed.
“Free School providers may be inexperienced in issues such as property acquisition, sustainable design, business planning and so on,” explained Jack Keillor, of Currie & Brown’s Free Schools team.
“There will be significant challenges for many groups, not least in finding suitable sites or premises to convert. If, for example, a group is looking to set up a 750-place school in West London for £5m – as has been reported recently – that raises issues, given that potential sites are at a premium, and prime building land can cost around £4m an acre.
“Free School groups will quickly discover that, with funding and space at a premium, they will need to innovate to achieve their aims. That may involve low cost conversion of an existing building or standardised building solutions. A certain amount of ‘joined-up thinking’ – for example, linking up with other community facilities and looking at additional uses for buildings – will be required.”
The Currie & Brown Free Schools One-Stop Shop involves partners who share an outstanding track record in supporting the successful delivery of inspirational new schools, on time and to budget. The team has already been commissioned to deliver its first feasibility study for a school in the Midlands.
Free Schools One-Stop Shop pool of partners include Alan Dale Education Architects, Key Educational Associates, Scott Wilson Group, Vital Energy and Lambert Smith Hampton.
“Schools are very particular and sensitive buildings. They need to provide a comfortable and safe environment for large, diverse groups of people – pupills, staff and the community – to work, move around and socialise,” commented Alan Dale, one of the partners.
“Flexibility and adaptability to changing needs over time are key. Careful planning is required at every stage of project development, and Free Schools groups will need access to the best advice available from people who really understand the issues,” he added.
Services available through the Currie & Brown initiative will include building design, project and cost management, school “visioning” and curriculum planning, advice on ICT integration, business case and bid development, technical services (such as surveying and engineering), land acquisition, planning and transport assessments and advice on sustainability, energy efficiency, facilities management and life-cycle costing.