To undertake pre-Cabinet scrutiny of the Schools Major Improvement Programme.
· Schools Service Major Improvements Programme 2019-2020
· Appendix A – Buildings and site priorities
Why is only one school benefitting from the Welsh Government Feminine hygiene and toilets grant and does Powys have a policy on the provision of feminine hygiene facilities in schools?
There is no policy for the provision of feminine hygiene facilities in sPowys schools however, under the scoring system the only school toilets due for capital spend were at Llangattock Church in Wales Primary school. The capital grant has therefore been spent at this school. The revenue grant received is being distributed by the schools service.
The Portfolio Holder described a new project ‘Bags of Confidence’ which was starting in Llanidloes, as a Powys based solution for period poverty but also looked to reach a wider audience toothbrushes and deodorant for pupils in need of both gender. It is hoped to roll this project out across Powys.
The Head of Learning noted that in terms of capital spend on school’s toilets the grant would not go far and it had therefore been prioritised to where it will have the greatest impact.
What will be the impact of reducing the capital spend available for Schools Major Improvements from £2million to £1million in future years?
There will be an impact on the ability for to respond to DDA requirements. The service is still responding to the condition of blocks but the reduction will reduce the ability to respond to maintenance and repairs. It will be necessary to ensure that the schools major improvements programme closely aligns to the 21st Century schools programme. It will be necessary to make in year changes to the programme if, for example, health and safety issues arise.
The Portfolio Holder advised that it was important to consider capital investment proposals at an early stage and be mindful of value for money considerations. For example, would it be good value for money to spend £250k of capital on a small school. However, when those schools in very poor condition have been replaced there will be more money available. The changes made in school for DDA purposes will be long lasting providing they are maintained and they are more cost effective than transporting a pupil to a special school.
The Schools Capital and Property Manager noted that a huge benefit accrued by enabling pupils to access mainstream education having made alterations for DDA requirements.
Why are certain schools who are known to be in poor condition not on this programme?
Those schools who are identified for feasibility work under the 21st Century Schools Programme, for example Sennybridge, will not feature on the Major Improvements Programme.
Should the authority be considering spending more money through Major School Improvements rather than the 21st Century Schools programme?
The Portfolio Holder confirmed that these were difficult decisions and whilst there was a need to improve ‘tired schools’ the focus on 21st Century Schools funding was transformational. Thus there are opportunities in for example Newtown where subject to detailed work it is proposed across the primary sector to close five and open two. There is always a balance between maintaining schools and accepting that a new build is necessary. Value for money is paramount.
What would be the cost of bringing all schools up to standard?
Under the Schools Asset Management Plan the service is collating the asset information and in the next quarter will be reviewing the condition of all schools together with the liability. This will enable a forecast to be produced on a school by school basis and will be provided to scrutiny.
Do all schools subscribe to Property Plus?
Not all schools have chosen to subscribe to Property Plus. When a new school is built there will be an opportunity to subscribe to Property Plus. The minimum period of subscription is three years.
How confident can schools be in signing up for Property Plus if for extended period the service offered is ‘emergency only’?
This was a difficult time for schools and the ‘emergency only’ period did include health and safety matters. Part of the reason for this period was because the service was dealing with a backlog.
Who is responsible for fencing school sites?
The local authority.
Are there any plans to put solar panels on the school estate?
This work would be part a corporate approach to energy generation.
Although LED lights are energy efficient how is this assessed against payback times?
Design life information has been requested so a business case can be put forward. It appears there is a mixed picture and HoWPS will be asked for their experience. This can then be provided to schools.
How is the service assured that jobs are completed to the appropriate standard?
The service aim to sign off every project to have a visual record and handover.
· That Scrutiny Observations on the Schools Major Improvement Programme be prepared for submission with Cabinet papers.
· A copy of the report on bringing schools up to standard (including cost) be provided to scrutiny on completion which would be expected by May 2019.