The PFI schools contract proved to be a challenge to main contractor Jarvis and in 2002, following earlier problems, they engaged VGC as their contractor to complete its contract to refurbish and maintain sixteen schools in the Kirklees area of West Yorkshire. The PFI contract was split into two phases. Initial refurbishment and, once the schools had been brought up to an agreed standard, subsequent on-going maintenance.
Undertaking construction work within schools has specific challenges. Before works starts, all personnel involved are subject to Criminal Record Bureau checks before being allowed on site. To ensure that the programme is achieved, sufficient personnel have to be checked and available to cope with such issues as sickness and fluctuating workload. In addition to this, working a normal daytime shift is not appropriate because of availability of access and the difficulties in segregating work areas from staff and pupils.
The refurbishment of the schools was carried out in accordance with the main PFI contract and involved plumbing and electrical upgrades, joinery, building work, painting and decorating.
To optimise the work programme VGC liaised with school heads and management teams to agree the best working arrangements. All work patterns were monitored to identify any access delays or other problems associated with working in an educational environment. By trialling different shift patterns and analysing the data collected, VGC was able to optimise working arrangements to significantly improve outputs whilst at the same time minimising any disruption to normal school activities.
By working in partnership with all the stakeholders, significant savings were achieved. Building on this success VGC adopted this model on other PFI contracts for schools in Liverpool and at Lancaster and Nottingham universities.