Premier New Schools | Free School Project Management

Free School Project Management


remier New Schools has a heritage in delivering high-quality educational and general management consultancy. Our consultants pride themselves in the record that every school they have helped to establish has been judged Good or Outstanding at its first Ofsted inspection.

They say there is no substitute for experience. While the free schools process is a road increasingly well-travelled, even experienced proposers (including us) encounter a surprise or two along the way. An experienced guide is essential for the road but so is the backing of an organisation that knows what to do when the road takes an unexpected turn.  

There are a small number of factors that are out of the control of proposers that will stop the school from opening – key amongst these being the ability of the EFA to secure a site. If the school has a site and the right advice, there should be no reason why the school should not open successfully. Projecting this forward, if the school opens successfully, with the right advice, there is no reason why it should not be graded Good or Outstanding at its first Ofsted inspection.

There are reams of documentation available for proposers as they prepare to open their schools. The process itself is relatively straightforward with key activities and outcomes expected by the DfE. If the process happened in isolation, there would be little need for project managers and advisers. Unfortunately, life goes on while free schools are opening and there are myriad of external factors that impact during the pre-opening phase. The skill is to anticipate and manage these; and this is where we are expert.

Premier New Schools will guide you through the pre-opening process with a plan that has been developed with the skills and capacity of your group in mind. Working backwards from your opening day, we will map out the key activities and risks that take you from day one of pre-opening to your opening day. These activities will be planned with consideration of the needs of the process and consideration of the time and skills available within the group.

Whether you want to ‘outsource’ all the key elements of pre-opening to us or simply need someone on the end of the phone to answer questions, we bring the same level of commitment – a commitment that has seen our people open over 100 new schools successfully.

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As you would expect, we can advise on or deliver each key aspect of the process:

  • Overall Project Management

You will not find an organisation with as much experience in successfully opening free schools as Premier New Schools. Every Director of PNS brings their own track record of success in free schools and combined, we are confident that your school could be in no better hands than ours (and yours!) to open on time and on budget. We speak with this confidence as all our Directors have been involved in opening their own schools as proposers as well as project managers.

Anyone can produce a project plan and risk register. Only the best can pour into each project the total understanding of the process that comes with having done it themselves.

  • Recruitment

The appointment of an inspiring Headteacher/Principal is one of the most critical decisions any Trust will make. Our recruitment specialists are all safer recruitment certified and have managed Head and SLT appointments since the outset of the free schools programme.

From process design to due diligence, we will work with you to attract, assess, appoint and induct the person who will carry forward the school’s vision into implementation. Having been involved in this process, we also build up a sense of the Head’s strengths which allows us to work closely on subsequent recruitment phases.

  • Marketing

How do you convince parents to buy into a school with no site, no head, no staff and no kids? The answer is to work relentlessly to promote the many things that you do have – passion, vision, energy, community support and a plan. Our marketing expertise has allowed us to help parents on the journey from being unaware of the school to starting their children on the first day. Creativity and messaging is important but this must be underpinned by a clear strategy that makes the most of the strengths of the group and the progress we will help you make.

  • Finance and Operations

From making best use of your Project Development Grant through to ensuring that the school opens with the appropriate levels of resources, we have worked on all types of school to help them make the decisions and inevitable compromises to get the best result for children.

We can advise on every line item of your budget to make sure that you can have confidence that your money is being spent wisely.

  • Procurement

Once you have decided to spend your budget, you need to ensure that it is being spent compliantly. From accessing procurement frameworks to getting three quotes, all the way up to OJEU compliant tendering, we can advise on a strategy that gets you the products and services you need at the best value and lowest cost in time.

We’ve managed the procurement in our own schools down to the final text book and our clients get the benefit of learning from our mistakes as well as our successes. Once done, we will work with you to ensure that you are getting what you are paying for and if required, manage the performance of your supply chain.

  • Governance

There is a symbiotic relationship between the Headteacher, the governing body and the Trust. From providing challenge to your structures to writing your governance plans, through to assessing the performance of your governing body, with PNS you are enlisting the support of people who are currently serving as governors, trustees and chairs; people who have been through exactly what you are about to face.

As in all aspects of free schools, much of the hard work starts once the school has opened. While Ofsted is three years away, we will make sure that the Trust has a plan that uses the various DfE and other scrutiny in place to continually refine the school and build on the successful opening.

  • Capital (Buildings)

There is often acceptance that the building project will just happen and the scope for proposers is limited – not so! In designing your building from scratch or specifying the conversion of a listed building, the quality of the output at the end is directly proportionate to the effort that is put in during the process.

We will ride shotgun for you during the building project. Our knowledge of the construction industry, the specific frameworks being used and the way in which companies operate in the space will ensure that every last penny of the capital budget is spent. Many proposers have finished their projects wishing that they had paid more attention to the detail of the finishes or the operational reality of their design.

With this knowledge in advance, the fabric of your school will be delivered to the same high standards as every other aspect.

  • Capital (ICT)

The revised EFA approach to ICT procurement is a considerable improvement on the previous framework. It offers more choice and more flexibility. However for some schools, it may not be appropriate and this can bring the Trust into conflict with the process.

From refining (or defining) your vision for ICT we will work with you to agree the most appropriate procurement route and then help you manage the demands of the process, whichever is chosen.