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Kippax Ash Tree Primary School

Category: Schools

“It works well – it functions well as a school. It’s attractive – the parents like it, the children like it, the community like it. I’m sold on it. You’ve got a fantastic, clean building with up to date facilities, furniture and computer suites with interactive whiteboards in every room. It’s light years ahead of what we had."

Martin Hall, Headteacher, Kippax Ash Tree Primary School

February, 2007

Kippax Ash Tree Primary School is a larger than average school serving the village of Kippax, a socially diverse community to the east of Leeds. From September 2005 its pupils have been taught in a new purpose built school funded by the private finance initiative, which replaced the old dilapidated split-site school buildings.

The private sector consortium QED was awarded the contract to carry out the refurbishment and expansion work on ten primary schools throughout the region by Leeds City Council with the objective to improve facilities, remove split-site primaries, add integrated childcare and provide community spaces where possible. Kippax Ash Tree was one of these schools.

The PPP Forum interviewed Martin Hall, who has been Headteacher of Kippax Ash Tree School for seven years.

One of the reasons I applied for this job was that I knew there was going to be a new school built eventually. I wanted to be involved in a new school.

The school used to be on two sites – there was an infants building half a mile away – an old Victorian building – and a junior building that used to be on the current site where the playground is now. So whilst the new PFI school building was being built it didn’t have any effect on us really at all as we could still use the old building. In fact it was good because a few times when the Foreman said it was safe we could get the kids on the site to see the building process. It was nice for the kids to be involved in it. The contractors came into the lessons to give safety demonstrations – about hard hats and so on.”

What was the rationale behind the PFI project?

We had a Victorian school with the plaster falling off the walls which was draughty, had doors that didn’t shut and a concrete playground. The junior building was 32 years old and was leaking in the roof.

It’s hard to run a split site school - it’s artificial and it doesn’t work. Some pupils weren’t even seeing their brothers and sisters properly. Now there are three playgrounds and the brothers and sisters are able to play together and see each other – it’s brilliant.”

How involved did you feel in the PFI process?

Once the LEA said we were going to get a new school, the ten of us from the ten schools involved would have regular monthly meetings and Sarah from QED ran them. It kept us informed about what was happening and we were involved in decisions and had a say all throughout the process. We had a choice of three designs and we all had a say in what we were going to get.

We involved staff right from the beginning. Each member of staff was given a dossier asking them what they wanted in their classroom. We collectively agreed the colour scheme we were going to have throughout the school. This is good because it makes the school look bigger and all the staff had a say in it. By involving everybody we got what we wanted.

There is a lot of communication both ways, the partnership works well. My advice would be to communicate, and don’t try to do it all yourself. My own wife was Head of another school involved in a PFI project and they were able to borrow the project furniture plans from our school (i.e. the furniture specification for each classroom). Because that work had already been done by QED and us, QED passed the information on to help them.”

So how does the school work in practice and what difference has it made?

It works well – it functions well as a school. It’s attractive – the parents like it, the children like it, the community like it. I’m sold on it. You’ve got a fantastic, clean building with up to date facilities, furniture and computer suites with interactive whiteboards in every room. It’s light years ahead of what we had.

The environment is better - there is nothing distracting the pupils, they are concentrating more. There’s no leaking roofs, there’s nothing silly happening. It is a quieter building and there is plenty of light – that is what we asked for. There’s more time for me to focus on education.

You’re on a totally different level – you’ve raised the kids expectations. The children appreciate the building. It is all carpeted and that’s reduced the noise. We’ve had no graffiti and nothing has been smashed or vandalised. They do respect it – they like it and take pride in it.

One of the kids said it was as good as Brigshaw, a high school two miles away which all our children go on to that burnt down about three years ago and was rebuilt as a PFI – a state of the art 1700 pupil school.”

And what about the impact it has had on the community?

The Brownies use the school – so do Slimming World, Pilates and Football as well as our own clubs. After the school had been open for a month we had a big open afternoon for the whole community to look around. It was packed and brilliant – they just came to see it all.”

Has the new school made a difference to the recruitment of quality staff?

We appointed four teachers over the summer and we had over 300 applicants. I’m retiring at Christmas and 18 Heads applied for the job – the average in Leeds has been three. And it was sold as a PFI school – PFI was part of the package – that’s attracting people in.”

What are your thoughts on PFI?

Go for it, 100%. It works. I don’t know the ins and outs of the financial side from the LEA’s perspective - all I know is that it takes off the part of my budget that had the caretakers, the catering and so on which I used to have to manage anyway so we’re no worse off financially at all. The finances that I’m given to run the school with are still enough to run the school – and you’ve got a brand new building, brand new everything – so go for it! I wouldn’t have any qualms at all – I’d sell it to anybody.”