Whilst every section of society has been affected by coronavirus, those in education have been hit particularly hard. Around the globe, the pandemic has impacted over 80% of the world’s total enrolled learners. To counteract any further disruption, in the UK, the government has introduced its summer schools programme.
The aim of this extra-curricular initiative is to offer those in education who have been negatively affected by the pandemic a well needed chance to catch up on their learning. But with construction schemes within schools typically carried out during school holidays, this understandably presents a conundrum for project managers.
Here at Munday + Cramer, we provide a range of services pertaining to the built environment, including project management. As a practice that undertakes a lot of work within the education sector, we’re fully supportive of the Government’s scheme.
At the same time, though, we’re also well aware that many project managers will be no doubt have to re-evaluate just how they go about delivering upcoming school schemes, this summer. With that in mind, we’ve put together this piece on how PMs can continue to deliver high-quality work, without overly disrupting pupil learning.
The Government’s Plans
First, though, in order to understand fully just how PMs might be affected, it’s worth looking at the Government’s own documentation on the matter. Earlier in the year, they released extensive guidance for secondary schools on how to implement summertime learning, as well as the reasoning behind it.
The document suggests that additional ‘catch-up’ learning can lead to pupils making up to four months’ worth of additional progress (provided that they’re being offered small group tuition). Given that the Department for Education estimates students between years 3 and 9 have fallen, on average, over three months on their maths studies, it’s clear the benefits that these schools could provide.
Carrying out an entire re-wiring throughout a school, for instance, is much more difficult, however, when day-to-day school activities are taking place. That’s before you even factor in any of the COVID considerations, in terms of the sheer quantity of people potentially on site at any one time.
We might be coming towards the end of the pandemic, but it’s still a delicately balanced situation, and having – what are two typically densely populated set-ups (a school and a construction site) wedged together, could conceivably pose issues.
Consider OOH (Out of Hours) Work
With certain blocks of the summer essentially now blocked out for learning time, the few constant, regular chunks of time still available throughout the summer for PMs are the weekends, and evening and night shifts. Though it might not make you the most popular of project managers, carrying out the majority of construction whilst pupils are off-site remains the easiest, most manageable course of action – for both contractors and pupils, alike).
Of course, this might mean that project completion might take longer than would’ve been the case had the schools been empty, but it will also help minimise disruption. Fortunately, from the PM perspective, it’s thought that most summer schools will likely only be a couple of weeks long, so most project managers will be still left with a reasonable tranche of time around which they can re-jig their scheduling.
This idea of flexibility and compromise is something that project managers should, if they’ve not already, factor into their project plans and preparations; that, just for this year, projects might well take a bit longer to deliver than usual, and that conveying these expectations to all the stakeholders involved is as crucial as the project work, itself.
Reviewing Scopes of Work
It’s important that project managers review their scope of work as to what is critical to having fewer students around. Whilst it’s always preferable to conduct school projects on an empty site, that’s just not going to be as feasible this year. Fortunately, some project types are less ‘invasive’ than others, so to speak.
Roofing projects, for instance, are easier to carry out without disrupting daily activities. Redoing the water systems throughout the school, on the other hand, is much more intrusive and is more likely for at least part of the school site to be cordoned off.
It’s in a project manager’s DNA to be meticulous, organised and eager to deliver the best possible results, in the shortest space of time. Attempting to do so this summer, however, might well lead to below-adequate results, and a rushed job overall. The best option, therefore, might well be to forego such ambitious timelines, in favour of a more measured and conservative approach.
It’s a difficult scenario for education providers and project managers alike. PMs are all too aware (and supportive) of the fact that students deserve and need additional learning time, this year. At the same time, though, So, if you’d like to find out more about our project management services, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01376 386 850 or by emailing us at 01376 386 850 or by emailing us at email@example.com. However you wish to get in touch, we look forward to hearing from you!