Our positive retrospective on 2020
2020 has finally come to an end. It was a difficult year, with events that no one had expected. The pandemic has put tremendous pressure on our society, leaving almost no area of life untouched. Education was not spared. Schools faced closing, impacting the lives of millions of children and their families, and in particular, those who are already disadvantaged. On re-openings, school leaders had to navigate complex rules, and are still leading an everyday battle to keep their children safe, and shield their classes from any risks of spread.
Despite the difficulties, many great things also happened. Rather than trying to erase 2020 from memory, we have decided to reflect on the fantastic projects that we worked on, all the achievement we have seen around us, and all the good things that got us through this year.
Nothing more rewarding than bringing projects to life
PAG supported many multi-academy trusts with their strategic goals and vision for growth. We have helped 6 trusts with the writing of successful applications for new schools, whether as part of the different free school waves or Local Authority competitions. It has been highly gratifying to see these trusts, with various sizes and aspirations, being awarded such thrilling projects, and we are excited to see them develop and progress throughout 2021. We are also currently involved in 3 Local Authority competitions bids which are still under evaluation, and similarly, we are eagerly anticipating the results of Wave 14, where we are hopeful to see many more of our clients awarded with more projects.
Our Project Managers have been closely involved with a total of 9 ongoing or now finalised pre-opening projects for schools which had been approved by the Department for Education. We are also project managing the conversion of several academies, and it is thrilling to see all the progress that has been made considering the current constraints that could have otherwise hindered these projects. 2020 was also the year where we cut the red ribbon for 2 schools for which we managed the pre-opening projects. And there is nothing as rewarding than seeing 30 new faces smiling at the camera for you. We are really proud of what those trusts have achieved and it has been an absolute pleasure being involved with helping them deliver those schools from inception to opening.
Helping schools achieve their aspirations as one of our main highlights
2020 was busy in many respects, and we worked with many schools and trusts in bringing their aspirations and plans to fruition. We assisted many different schools in clarifying their visions, and supported them in putting their plans on track. We used our sector intelligence to advise clients with bespoke strategies tailored to their end goals. We have been involved in successful bid-writing which brought different schools and trusts the funds they needed to start working on achieving their ambitions.
With the DfE’s Trust Capacity Fund alone, we wrote bids for client securing an approximate total of £400,000, bringing our numbers just under £1,000.000 over both TCaF rounds. We also supported several Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF Emergency Funding) applications, which helped schools who were in particularly urgent need, exasperated by the current situations. Our support helped schools receive a total of £400,000 this year, a figure which rises with other sponsorship grants. On many projects, we helped clients define their strategy and explore all their potential growth options to reach their goals. We have done this through in-depth feasibility studies and cost-benefits analyses.
Complex research in complex times
Throughout 2020, we also worked with a great mix of different public and private bodies such as local councils, real estate developers, or private contractors. We have assisted them in delivering complex research project and accompanied them on their journey on the short or longer term.
We have, for example, delivered Childcare Sufficiency Assessments for local authorities, involving complex quantitative data analysis crossed with the delivery of 100 of phone interviews with qualitative data analysis. We also worked with schools to undertake a research project informing them of best practices and priorities. For example, we provided a review of SEMH best practices in a trust local context (location, cohort, etc.). We also delivered a nursery mapping, informing a trust of the childcare needs around its different schools in order to help them with their plans to get an additional nursery.
"Several clients came to us with an end goal, but lack of clarity on how to achieve it or lack of confidence in deliverability. For them, we have been providing situation diagnosis with capacity and capability mapping in order to assess ambition’s achievability. We helped them understanding different potential options to explore, and also supported them with their preferred path of development. "
We also led projects for public entities regarding the impact of different major events (Brexit, COVID-19, etc.) on social cohesion and the impact of these events on communities. This required the delivery of interviews, surveys, and focus groups, in order to uncover hidden trends and inform clients best on future strategies.
Another type of research and work we have been delivering for clients other than schools or trusts has been the delivery of various feasibility studies. Several clients came to us with an end goal, but lack of clarity on how to achieve it or lack of confidence in deliverability. For them, we have been providing situation diagnosis with capacity and capability mapping in order to assess ambition’s achievability. We helped them understanding different potential options to explore, and also supported them with their preferred path of development.
PAG takes a lot of pride in having been able to adapt the delivery of many projects under difficult circumstances without hampering the quality of our work. We have put ourselves at the front end to help schools with their different responsibilities in order to alleviate all external pressures that they were put under. We have also made sure to address clients’ additional requests regarding further research or measures connected to COVID-19, and continued to deliver our work on schedule and with the same level of diligence and commitment.
A growing team with growing skills
Finally, we are very glad to have been able to expand our team by no fewer than 5 new permanent team members, and we could not be prouder of what they have helped us achieve.
2020 has been a tough year, but we have made the most of it. It had been a pleasure to work with all our clients in such difficult times. 2020 has only make us all stronger, ready to enter 2021 with positiveness even greater ambitions.