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FEATURE FOCUS: MAINTENANCE & DESIGN


Crossing the digital hurdle: new tech shakes up approach to risk management and compliance within schools


N


ew technologies are set to revolutionise the way in which schools approach risk


management and compliance. Improved data security, accuracy, efficiency and consequent cost savings, are just some of the advantages of going digital. But what does this move mean for school business managers in reality? Steve Aldridge, Managing Director at ACMS UK, industry experts in risk management and auditing, discusses the value of a digitalised risk management strategy.


Assessing the likelihood of risk, its ‘cost’ and how it can be prevented, is rightly a top priority within the school environment. The health, safety and wellbeing of children, staff and visitors to a school are of paramount importance. Risk must be managed on a daily basis. Headteachers and business managers are being


given greater responsibility for the running of their portfolio and ensuring compliance to health and safety in a myriad of different and frankly, complex issues. Ensuring the never-ending checks and balances are undertaken in a responsible,


professional and timely manner, is a primary responsibility. However, organisational models, systems and


processes used by schools to manage health and safety have in large, not changed for decades. These old-fashioned systems are no longer fit for purpose - paper based, time consuming and inefficient – they fail to address the needs and requirements of the education sector today. We work closely with many educational


establishments across the UK, and regularly witness teams facing common challenges: unable to find usable information quickly; struggling to link and share information stored in a variety of different systems; a lack of consistency across teams; and poor-quality data. The manual and paper processes in place to manage important issues such as water management, emergency lighting, asbestos, legionella, energy performance, fixed electrical testing, noise control and fire safety, are long drawn and inaccurate. As a result, the chance of missing maintenance,


testing or misplacing records, is significantly increased. This is the case across the board, within local authority schools, private schools, colleges, universities and wider academies. On top of this, the increasing move to academy structures, puts even greater pressure on business managers when it comes to dealing with, transferring and sharing fragmented risk management data across a network of schools. Despite technological advances in all other


areas of the education sector, risk management and its reporting, remains firmly behind the times, leaving schools exposed.


Health and safety of upmost importance Paradoxically, health and safety compliance and its reporting, remains high on the government agenda. In November last year, the introduction of new health and safety legislation and


28 www.education-today.co.uk


sentencing guidelines saw heftier fines and custodial sentences for lack of compliance. The government also launched its new


Asbestos Management Assurance Process - a scheme where schools have to provide written assurance of compliance with legislation on the management of asbestos. Asbestos was banned in 1999 but was regularly used in construction until this date, including for some schools built between the 1950s and 1980s. Stats from the National Education Union show that more than 200 teachers have died since 2001 from mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with asbestos. Worryingly, according to the Public Select


Committee earlier this year, a quarter of schools (23%) had failed to respond to the government regarding the levels of asbestos present in buildings and how that risk is managed. Furthermore, a report from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) stated, “there was no uniformity across trusts with regards to asbestos management. Some trusts provided examples of good practice, but many did not.” Worryingly, according to the Public Select


Committee earlier this year, a quarter of schools (23%) had failed to respond to the government regarding the levels of asbestos present in buildings and how that risk is managed. Furthermore, a report from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) stated, “there was no uniformity across trusts with regards to asbestos management. Some trusts provided examples of good practice, but many did not.” I believe the issue of uniformity across trusts, as


well as an individual school’s ability to respond to issues such as asbestos levels, largely comes down to having an effective web-based system in place.


A vital cog in a well-run school Risk management aims to help organisations


June 2019


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