In ensuring that our schools are safe, clean, and warm and our statutory obligations are met is imperative, and that whilst providing evidence of this, we do not impact on our core educational purpose. With different systems, processes, and expertise levels across our academies and with guidance ever changing this can be challenging and can be time consuming for all.
Whilst OAT Estates Head Office (a newly created team) have adopted the fundamentals of GEMS (through its strategic planning), the management at academy level is varied with some academies not having knowledge of GEMS and not utilising resource within.
Question to Estate Managers
What are the biggest challenges faced in delivering your role?
Simplify to comply:
Using Office365 to streamline process and simplify systems with the goal of improving compliance, safeguarding our assets, and reducing expenditure in line with DfE GEMS.
OAT took the view that whilst GEMS provides a good solid foundation of how to manage school estates from a strategic approach, we needed to find a way to disseminate this information on the ground into a suite of easy-to-use guidance, procedures, templates, and risk assessments.
With lack of time, finance and expertise creating our biggest challenges and with a regional spread it made financial and environmental sense to utilise technology to centralise estates and compliance management. Particularly with the pandemic and not limiting contact with schools.
However, with some estates staff having insufficient estates knowledge and access to IT and no additional time or money it was imperative to focus on the following:
- Development of a system that was accessible, easy to use and mobile friendly
- Specifically focussed on streamlining process and not re-inventing the wheel
- Linked to DfE GEMS, HSE and estates related legislation and guidance
Utilising OATs existing SharePoint system which, with an OAT wide merge to Office 365 we developed a centralised estates system on-line:
- Premises Handbook: linked to GEMS and HSE but broken down into easy-to-use A-Z guidance, information, procedures and links to legislation and useful additional guidance
- Suite of Risk Assessments and audit templates to adopt on-line and keep everything in one place
- Compliance management in one place
- Storage centre for all estates related paperwork
By moving data into a safe, secure suite that is mobile friendly is creating an easier tool for our site teams and as a trust we are developing better assurance that we are trust wide compliant.
The future of compliance
A joined up, trust wide approach that has all its estates data sitting in a shared platform to store, upload, complete and develop together with automation of task and a mobile friendly environment. Utilising the guidance from GEMS but with an OAT twist – simplify to comply.
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