Bond Bryan are nationally recognised as experts in strategic planning and, for over 25 years, have been working with further education colleges to respond to the ever-changing needs of this sector.
Details of the Further Education Capital Transformation Fund were announced last week. In light of this, we sat down with our FE expert, Roger Newman, to gain some valuable insight into how colleges might respond.
Roger, you have worked with over 40 colleges, from providing both strategic and space needs advice through to complete campus redevelopment – what would your advice be in what might seem like a daunting task?
I think that the first piece of advice is don’t panic. The timescales for the initial funding application are tight; however, it’s important not to rush to a solution; if successful, you’ll be living with the result for many years. Within the time available, there is still an opportunity to carefully consider how any investment can best support your educational needs: If you focus on meeting just the immediate needs, it is then often difficult to find time to stop and consider the longer-term vision.
However, strategic estates planning offers a wealth of potential operational benefits – from both improved space efficiency and reduced running costs to potential disposal receipts for surplus assets.
The funding delivers the government’s commitment, made at the 2020 Budget, to upgrade and transform the FE college estate over the next 5 years. This sounds like an opportunity to really consider how strategic planning might be used to support change.
Exactly that. The evolving demands of building users, new technologies and market opportunities, are constantly altering the types of spaces in which we need to learn, work and live. This has been highlighted – even more so – in the current pandemic. As a result, the existing estate may not be suitable for future demands: it’s really important to question assumptions here and to offer practical and deliverable solutions. The goal is always to help colleges to identify an estate solution that is flexible and imaginative enough to allow you to deliver your educational vision.
We have witnessed the ever-changing funding regime of the FE sector, from the earliest days of the FEFC, through the growing ambition of the LSC, to the more recent and measured funding opportunities of the SFA/ESFA/DfE and LEPs.
We’ve also been fortunate to have developed many of these projects through the detailed briefing, design and delivery stages. We understand the real-life complexities of implementing major changes to the estate and we bring this experience to bear to ensure that we can offer practical and deliverable solutions at the bidding stage. Yes, timescales are short – but that’s what we do and where experience lends a hand; it’s important to begin with a proper conversation about the vision and aspirations of a college – as well as the hard facts – in order to be able to develop a fully-comprehensive and robust strategy.
Our strategic education expertise has been recognised by the DfE and we have provided a range of direct consultancy commissions for them. Most recently, this has included helping to develop national Space Needs Guidance for the FE sector, aiding development of standardised information to support the DfE’s GenZero carbon ambition, and undertaking Post Occupancy Evaluations of the first wave of Institutes of Technology – in order to identify best practice and provide recommendations for future rounds of investment.
We have a dedicated team that, through years of experience, are adept at all of the analysis, option and appraisal skills which are nowadays required to explore the estate needs of the future. If you would like to get in touch, please contact Roger or the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.