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Lammas School, Leyton

Category: Schools

"The biggest advantage is that PFI has taken the non-teaching load off the management and teaching staff so we can concentrate on education."

Brent Payne, Deputy Head

March, 2002

The Lammas school in Leyton, North East London, was opened last September. Parents were very keen to get places at this school, with two applications for every place. It is a very close community school with everyone living within 0.9 of a mile.

The PPP contract is provided by NewSchools - A joint venture between WS Atkins and Innisfree, with Wates Construction responsible for the design, and construction and delivery. The project was for the design, financing, construction and provision of maintenance and support services (including IT) for a brand new 900 pupil secondary school for a concession period of 25 years.

The PPP Forum interviewed Mr Brent Payne, Deputy Head, The Lammas School. Mr Payne has taught in East London for 21 years and was a senior teacher in another local school for 9 years.

The media constantly talk of the shortage of teaching staff in London. Have you had any trouble recruiting staff to the new school, or were the new school building and facilities considered an attraction?

"All the staff were recruited from January to Easter which was tough going in that time scale! It was seen as a very desirable school, not least because of the chance to set up a reputation at a brand new school, and make one's own mark on Departments, so we have managed to recruit very good, experienced staff.

The superb facilities are definitely a huge draw. They are above DfES requirements in terms of space - with bigger rooms. The Team rooms for staff in each department make a huge difference, and the ICT facilities such as the interactive whiteboards and computers are excellent

Some architectural journalists have criticised PFI schools for being badly designed and shoddy - does this fit your view of Lammas?

"Not at all. In terms of design, the school is built upon a very small site but the building fits it well.

The design is innovative, featuring a central area which forms the focus for communal activity, IT and library access at the school.

We were very impressed with the way the building firm wanted it as a flagship project for themselves as well as the Local Authority. Wates Construction were the builders and they were keen for the whole project to work as well as possible for all concerned

And have you been happy with the building since it has opened?

"We have been very pleased. If one thing needs to be changed that is the student entry and exit doors are too high tech, meaning that there are too many exits and entrances to be supervised, during breaks for example.But it is something we are resolving."
What about the children and parents - what was their reaction to the school?

"The way the children have settled in is extremely positive and the feedback from parents has also been positive. The kids love the building, but most of all they love the facilities - ranging from music and drama rooms, a sound studio and huge gymnasium, to the American style lockers in the corridors!"

How is the ongoing relationship with NewSchools?

"The relationships with both the contract manager and the facilities manager are excellent. The Local Authority did an extremely good job in negotiating the contract itself. The PPP takes the time consuming, non-educational workload away from the school management, which is all dealt with by NewSchools."

If you were to pick one thing which stands out, what would that be?

"The ICT facilities are the star area of the whole contract. The providers, WS Atkins ICT, are very helpful and the ongoing relationship is superb."

Has the teachers view of PFI, and maybe your own, changed as a result of being at the school?

"The biggest advantage is that PFI has taken the non teaching load off the management and teaching staff so we can concentrate on education. The catering, cleaning, gardening etc is all taken care of.

We have regular meetings, but the day to day management is all left to NewSchools

Have there been any problems with the standard of cleaning and other services?

"There have been no problems with substandard services. A delegation of teachers recently from other schools in the area expressed surprise over the level of cleaning."

Were there any problems setting up the school facilities?

"One area which was difficult was that the firm subcontracted to provide the furniture and related furnishings came across lots of difficulties in doing such a massive job in such a short period of time - going from scratch to provide everything from carpets to matching chairs in a couple of months was a huge feat and not without its difficulties.

Certain things in the building specifications haven't worked in hindsight, such as the door access that I mentioned earlier -also, if anything some of the equipment is over and above the design specification which can lead to problems with using things for teaching

Does the building allow any use for the wider community of Leyton?

"Adult Education also use the school for a certain number of evenings and some adult literacy classes in the afternoon which can be accommodated without any impact on the rest of the school because of its design."

Have other local schools looked to Lammas as an example to be followed?

"Other Headteachers have been keen to become involved in PFI deals in the Local Authority, because of the benefits they, and the Local Authority, perceive that similar PPP's can bring."