When The Skinners’ Kent Academy opened in 2009 in Tunbridge Wells, it started life on the site of its predecessor, Tunbridge Wells High School.
However, in 2012, the co-educational secondary school embarked on ambitious plans to completely redevelop its buildings and facilities, recognising that a modern, well-equipped learning environment would be key to fostering a culture of high aspirations and high standards.
The management team identified Neller Davies as its partner for this project, based on our experience of managing – and more importantly, successful delivering other Academy upgrades with similarly challenging budgets.
We were delighted to take up this exciting opportunity and guide the multiple stakeholders through the procurement of services for the build of their new Academy.
Today, the school is unrecognisable, transformed into a state-of-the-art facility with the academic standards to match – it’s been rated outstanding by Ofsted and ranks among the top six percent of schools in the country.
However, there were challenges along the way, as we were faced with fast-changing economic variations throughout this project. Funding for the build programme was constrained resulting in very tight project costs, this placed the emphasis on value engineering from the service provider. Our overarching aim was to reduce uncertainty, so we worked to accommodate a great deal of flexibility whilst creating a solid framework for service delivery.
In practice, this was a complex project with significant design hurdles to overcome. It involved balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders including Kent County Council, The Skinners’ Company (sponsors of the Academy) and the appointed contractor.
We advised and guided the stakeholders through every phrase to ensure it delivered best value, employing best-practice, statutory-compliant procedures based on PRINCE2 project management guidelines. This incorporated the design and build methodology and overall project strategy; procurement and selection (compliant with the public contracts regulations); implementation; and review and renewal of facilities.
The year-long, rigorous tendering process saw us work closely with the stakeholders, drawing upon our benchmarking expertise and previous experience of large-scale projects to advise and help them identify the most suitable bidder. The eventual winner was awarded the £21 million contract thanks in part to clearly demonstrating how they could yield significant cost savings over five years without compromising the goals of the project.
Despite these savings, the funding cuts weighed heavily on the project and placed pressure on the operational budget. Our team was able to overcome this through detailed specifications, data and market engagement, ensuring all expenditure was carefully scrutinised and through the elimination of unnecessary costs.
The rebuild ran successfully, despite the financial challenges, and has made a huge difference to The Skinners’ Kent Academy. The winning bidder provided a very attractive deal by taking a more innovative, generic facilities management approach to providing services which delivered significant economic benefit compared to other bidders. This largely offset the risks transferred from the project.
Neller Davies is proud to have played a part in the Skinners’ Kent Academy success story.