In recent years, there has been an influx in both new-build and refurbishment construction projects in the education sector.
Due to the nature of these projects, there are a number of challenges which can affect completion, including tight time constraints, strict budgets, considerable safety risks and more. However, with an experienced project management team on board, many of these challenges can be resolved.
Here at Greyfriars Project Management, we specialise in delivering infrastructure and development projects for a range of sectors, including education. With our project management expertise, we help clients tackle the challenges they may encounter to ensure efficient project completion.
So, we’ve taken a look the reasons for the increase in construction projects in the education sector, the unique challenges these projects may face – and how project management can help.
Why is there a rising number of development projects in the education sector?
Put simply, we need more – and bigger – schools to accommodate the growing population.
Each year, thousands more pupils enter both the primary and secondary school systems which puts pressure on the limited number of school places available. To cope with this, educational infrastructure must be built or expanded.
Also, as the population rises, more housing is required. As a result, supporting infrastructure – particularly schools – are needed too.
Government rebuilding schemes
The Department for Education has committed to spending £2.8billion on a school rebuilding programme.
This involves rebuilding or refurbishing 500 schools and sixth form colleges across England. The aim is to modernise the country’s education infrastructure and prioritise updates to the buildings most in need.
As of July 2022, there are 161 school construction projects in the programme with more to be announced each year.
The UK government has introduced a legally-binding target to reach carbon neutrality (Net Zero) by 2050.
This means a number of changes must be implemented to cut carbon emissions, including constructing carbon neutral buildings which are highly energy efficient and fully powered by renewable sources.
As a result, new build schools will be constructed to be Net Zero ready, and existing educational infrastructure is likely to be updated to meet the targets. Construction of fully Net Zero schools has already commenced and refurbishments are expected in the coming years.
What are the challenges the education sector faces with construction projects?
With this increased demand for educational infrastructure comes a number of challenges:
Construction projects in any sector are often complex with many moving parts. Construction teams, design consultants and decision-makers are all working on the same site – with the potential of further stakeholders being involved too.
This can make it challenging to ensure a project in the education sector is delivered as smoothly as possible, particularly when managing and communicating key information and changes to scope.
Many construction projects require detailed knowledge of specific contracts and statutory framework. Developments in the education sector are no different.
Those commissioning an educational infrastructure project at client level may not have the extensive knowledge of the construction industry and the contracts which are best suited to the project and reflect the current market.
The procurement process is often underestimated in terms of time and the level of resources required to make it a success.
Those working in the education sector may not have the knowledge or the staff available to identify and organise the most suitable procurement strategy. This can subsequently cause delays when getting the project started and completed on time.
All construction projects come with varying levels of risk but there are often even more involved in the education sector, particularly around programme and safeguarding.
Sometimes, projects can be carried out while buildings are still occupied with pupils and staff. This carries a significant number of challenges which must be suitably managed.
With only a specific amount of funding available and many different costs involved, it is paramount that a project in the education sector is completed within its means. Managing this can be challenging.
This can be exasperated by small delivery windows, so reviewing works on a programme level across campuses can achieve better contractor engagement and better value for money.
Strict time constraints
For many projects in the education sector, there are very strict timescales.
Due to the operational needs of schools, there is often an accelerated time frame in which projects must be completed. Manging the programme is paramount but not always easy, especially as most works are limited to school holidays and therefore need to be planned and procured 6 to 12 months in advance if possible.
How can project management help?
With a fully dedicated project management team, the above challenges can be resolved effectively to ensure a project is completed efficiently and as expected.
Crucially, expert project managers will help keep the project on track. They can provide innovative solutions and tools to tackle any challenge, successfully taking the project from conception to completion.
One of the most important roles a project management team can fulfil for construction projects in the education sector is keeping to tight timescales. Project managers help to ensure projects are completed on time so the operational needs of an education facility are not impacted.
They will have extensive knowledge of the construction industry, including the relevant contracts and framework. This will ensure any contracts are administered correctly and all parties involved understand the necessary requirements.
Also, with their knowledge and connections in the industry, procuring suitable contractors will be easier. This will significantly speed up the project for efficient completion.
Risk management is another key service a project manager can help with. They can identify the potential risks, create the most suitable solutions and ensure those solutions are effectively implemented.
Costs and budget can also be controlled by a project management team. Ensuring financial tracking is in order means that a project can be completed within the specific budgets which are very common in the education sector.
Most developers have identified that enlisting a project management team is essential to successfully delivering a construction project in the education sector. They will keep the project on time, on budget and on programme.
Greyfriars Project Management can help!
Here at Greyfriars Project Management, we are a team of highly knowledgeable project managers with extensive experience working with the education sector.
Based in Norfolk, we work collaboratively with our clients to ensure their infrastructure and development projects are completed as desired and to the highest standard.
Our team specialises in providing full project management services, including programme support, contract management, budget controls, risk management, design support and more.
Whether full project management services or ad-hoc support is needed, we can help at any stage.
To find out more, get in touch today.