As I write, the EFA is doing the rounds of schools in the Priority School Building Programme, letting them know to which batch they have been allocated. Those who fall in the early batches will find that after a long period during which little seemed to be happening, they are suddenly required to do an awful lot in a relatively short space of time.
An important initial activity for schools will be to identify their known knowns, known unknowns and the rest of the family made famous by the former US Secretary of State. This is not as frivolous as it sounds. Schools will be expected to provide detailed, accurate information about issues relating to their site, the services that are currently provided and the equipment they will expect to have in their new facilities early in the procurement process.
The absence of this information may allow bidders to qualify their submissions. It may also mean schools do not know, sufficiently early within the standardised and batched approach, some of the bespoke issues they need to see addressed to provide them with new facilities that work as well for the school as they might.
It will not be surprising to find, in the first analysis, that not much falls into the known knowns category. It may also be the case that to shift issues into this box requires the cooperation of third parties – most obviously, the landowner of the school site and parties currently providing facilities management services to the school. This is another reason to start engaging with the issues now, to allow time to generate responses from these parties and to assess the information they provide.
Schools that are able to provide complete and reliable information and that have a developed sense of what they want, based upon facts rather than speculation, will find bidders devoting more time and attention to proposals for their school than those where the picture remains uncertain.
In terms of unknown knowns, this is where advisors can potentially make a positive contribution, helping schools understanding the questions they need to be asking of whom and what they need to be considering for themselves. Again, it is about ensuring schools are in a position of knowledge as early in the process as possible and able to raise.