Costs of building services rocketing for schools

Schools converting to independent academy status are finding themselves exposed to higher costs of goods and services as they emerge from under the collective buying umbrellas of local authorities.

This is particularly true in the procurement of services that require on-site attendance by specialists for essential services such as air and water treatment. Where engineers used to be able to visit an area and cover several local authority schools in one day, they now find themselves travelling the same distances for just one site visit, with obvious pressure on costs. “Prices have the potential to more than double, especially for smaller schools,” says Andrew Steel, Managing Director of Airmec.

Of course, it is surely only a matter of time before academies organise themselves into buying consortia. The commercial reality is that a small school might be charged around £50 per visit for monthly monitoring, so £600 per year, if four local schools can be visited in a day. If only a single school can be serviced all of the travel time and cost will need to be allocated to the one contract, so potentially £100 to £120 per visit or £1200 to £1400 per year.

However, the geographical distance between them probably means that it is unlikely that they will ever enjoy the volume contract prices that a county hall with dozens of schools within a few miles of each other could command.

Airmec recommends that schools take a realistic look at their requirements, which starts with ensuring they have an up to date asset register and risk assessment. From this they can develop an understanding of the right cleaning and maintenance intervals. There is often also scope to consolidate services such as checking air extract vents in kitchens, and monitoring water hygiene, under a single supplier. This has the potential dramatically to reduce the number of visits needed and so the costs involved, points out Andrew Steel.

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