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Business support in action

November 23, 2021, 17:24 GMT+1
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  • Rachel Bishop explains how to navigate the planning, funding and implementation of new outdoor play and sports facilities...
Business support in action

Lincoln Anglican Academy Trust (LAAT) is a Multi Academy Trust that was set up by the Diocese of Lincoln in 2013 to build a mutually supportive family of academies in Greater Lincolnshire.

Schools in LAAT are placed in hubs as a way to enable schools within a geographical area to support one another and work together on initiatives and developments.

Our academies have access to a wide range of school improvement strategies and as one of the trust’s business and operations partners, I offer advice and support on the operational aspects of running a busy school, from budget planning and HR to health and safety compliance.

This additional resource, which is not always available within a school, can be invaluable in relieving the workload of teaching staff and allowing them to concentrate on what they do best, namely teaching. 

A playground project

A recent example of LAAT’s business support in action can be seen at Ruskington Chestnut Street CofE Primary Academy with the successful completion of new games and play facilities.

Giving children access to full and rich outdoor play and learning opportunities is key to their wellbeing and development, and so the school was keen to expand and improve its existing outdoor areas.

As Chestnut Street is one of the three schools assigned to my hub, I worked closely with its executive headteacher, George Trafford, and head of school, Daniel Doud, to bring the new playground plans to fruition within the allocated budget and timescale. 

As a starting point, I organised consultations with the school to determine what they wanted to achieve from their investment. It was decided that the new facilities should include a Trim Trail, a multi-use games artificial pitch, a tepee, a mark-making hut in the Key Stage 1 area, and new den-making posts.

Canopies for the forest school were another priority as these would allow the children to use this outdoor space whatever the weather. 

Budget planning

Needless to say, it was important to keep the development costs down without compromising on quality.

With experience of managing similar projects for other schools in my hub, I was able to assist Chestnut Street in preparing a capital budget to cover the main construction costs, while some of the equipment was funded by a donation from the Friends of the School.

In addition, mothballing currently disused classrooms released monies that could be allocated to the project. We were also able to make savings by repurposing some disused fence posts, and I was able to negotiate the acquisition of equipment no longer used by other LAAT schools.

Managing tendering

Having agreed the budget, I managed the tendering process and, after evaluating multiple suppliers’ quotes, we appointed Rutland-based Playscape Playgrounds with whom I had worked successfully on other LAAT school developments.

Before work began I carried out the necessary risk assessments for contractors to work on site and ensured the appropriate warranties were in place.

Like many construction projects over the past year, the works at Chestnut Street did encounter delays due to the pandemic, but thanks to close liaison between the various parties – and a ready supply of tea and biscuits for those working on site – the new facilities were opened two weeks before the end of the summer term, much to the excitement of the children. 

Summing up the success of the project, Daniel Doud, said: “The new equipment will have a really positive impact on the children. And with continuing support from LAAT, further expansion of the academy’s educational play provision is already being planned. Over the coming months, the school is hoping to create an outdoor reading area with a storybook chair and add new playground markings.”

Rachel Bishop, Business and Operations Partner of the Lincoln Anglican Academy Trust (LAAT).