Repairs? Tap in to tot up your bill

25th April 1997 at 01:00
Your average school janitor might be a bit surprised to discover he is really a "facilities manager" but, according to Ian McDonald, depute director of education in Glasgow, a janitor is just that. A management information system being installed this month will allow caretakers to be involved in decisions on maintenance spending for both secondary and primary school buildings.

The new system stems from the devolution of school budgets which is now being extended to building repairs. Five years ago, the former Strathclyde Region undertook an initiative to give schools greater control of their budgets. Glasgow spends Pounds 11 million on school building repairs. Half of this will now be allocated to schools to manage day-to-day jobs, with the rest being held back by the council for more substantial matters, such as roof damage and broken windows.

The council has adapted the software it uses to maintain its housing stock. The Unified Repair System - with dedicated PCs, software and ISDN lines installed in its 39 secondary schools at a cost of Pounds 200,000 - allows these schools and their feeder primaries to type in orders to the council and detail exactly what needs to be repaired.

"The old system was that a janitor would call out the clerk of works or the repair requirements would be logged in a book and the clerk of works would come round to check every so often," says Ian McDonald. "The clerk of works would decide if the work was to be done. He then wrote an order. It then went to building and works department, who authorised it. The clerk of works was also in control of the budget. It was a very elaborate, bureaucratic system of repairs."

Under the new scheme requests for repairs will be logged by an operator at City Building, who will send out the appropriate tradesman.

A Glasgow secondary school will now have a budget of Pounds 40,000 to Pounds 50,000 to spend on repairs. It will be able to monitor on screen how much money has been spent, allocate sums where they are most needed and avoid unnecessary work. The long-term ambition is to use any money saved from maintenance on furniture and decoration or to put it towards capital projects.

The council is hoping to cut down on wastage from water leakages. "We're unnecessarily spending half a million pounds a year in water charges," says Ian McDonald. "You pay for what you use, so there's now a big incentive to cut back on consumption and part of that is getting repairs done quickly."

The new system will also allow a technology profile of the school to be built up, so that tradesmen do not waste time finding out which spare parts to bring or have to call for additional help.

For Roger Boyle, assistant headteacher at Cleveden Secondary, the first school to install the new system, it is the only way that devolved budgets can be handled. He says: "If we tried to do everything manually it would take a couple of weeks to do one transaction. We would not be able to survive without it."

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