England’s 20,000 primary and secondary schools could pour millions more pounds into their plant and equipment if they considered alternative approaches to maintaining their assets, according to FTSE 250 outsourcer and energy services company MITIE.
Using figures from schools they are managing, MITIE calculated that millions of pounds could be re-invested across the country if companies were able to manage school boilers, heating systems and other infrastructure.
In January 2012 the government announced that there would be an 80% cut in devolved capital funding to schools – money which pays for capital projects and indirectly impacts the maintenance and upkeep of school assets.
The cut in funding means that school budgets are more stretched than ever before – making models such as the one MITIE deploys a more attractive proposition for schools.
The MITIE model involves taking on the complete management of a schools energy assets upfront. MITIE starts by running the existing assets, such as boilers, more efficiently which involves optimising them so they cost less to operate.
Using the savings this generates – which can result in short term energy savings of as much as ten percent, MITIE then invests in new state of the art capital equipment which drives further cost savings.
New equipment is far more reliable and energy efficient than legacy infrastructure – reducing the likelihood of schools having to close down during the winter and increasing valuable teaching time.
Since 2004 MITIE has been maintaining the assets of twelve schools across North Somerset Council (NSC) and has calculated that it has re-invested almost £500,000 over a five year period into new capital equipment such as lighting sensors and energy efficient lighting, solar panels and building management systems. This works out at £8,333 per year per school.
The council has also benefited from having a reliable system, cost stability, budget predictability, simplified contracts and compliance with environmental and safety legislation.
Martin Holt, managing director of MITIE’s Technical Facilities Management business, said, “Our research indicates that thousands more schools could benefit from lower energy bills, better infrastructure, and protected capital budgets if they considered new approaches to managing their energy assets.
“The beauty of the approach we have taken with North Somerset Council is that it can be replicated in any school in the country and have a real impact on schools budget and frontline services without any additional upfront costs.
“At a time when the public and private sector alike are looking for cost efficiencies that don’t impinge on crucial services, this is the kind of innovative model we think more schools should be considering.”
Mark McSweeney, property services manager for North Somerset Council, said, “The reality is that given the budgetary pressure schools are under we could not hope to make the capital investment that MITIE has made, which is why this partnership has been so beneficial to us.
“Since bringing MITIE on board the heating systems of schools in our council have been far more reliable during the cold winter months. In fact we had no school closures during the cold winter of 2010/2011, which was a great achievement.
“The improvements have helped us keep schools open in all weathers and have made a real difference to the staff and pupils. Even better, the arrangement has enabled schools to focus resources on core teaching budgets.”