The Queensland Government needed to deliver eight new primary schools and two new secondary schools across South East Queensland to cater for up to 10,000 additional students and 650 staff as part of the growing demand for education in the region.
The Queensland Government faced the twin challenges of having insufficient education infrastructure to accommodate the rapid population growth, and the existing infrastructure not being allocated sufficient maintenance funding to allow schools to be optimally maintained throughout their planned life.
Previously, each school within Queensland would receive annual maintenance funding from the Government, with maintenance services either provided to schools by the Queensland Government Department of Housing and Public Works or procured and managed directly by each school.
Usually, the maintenance funding would be inadequate to meet each school’s maintenance requirements, leading to an asset maintenance backlog and causing the facilities’ condition to deteriorate.
The Queensland Government faced the challenge of a short-term need to open more schools, leaving little time for its procurement process to achieve financial close, in time for the required academic year commencement of operations.
The Queensland Government adopted a bundling approach within a public-private partnership (PPP) contract to ‘bundle’ the 10 smaller school assets under a PPP, where the successful proponent – Plenary Schools Consortium – was responsible for designing, constructing, commissioning, partially financing, maintaining, and providing facilities management services for the schools over a concession period of 30 years.
Bundling a collection of geographically proximate schools generated sufficient size to allow multiple schools to be delivered quickly, with certainty, aligned to the forecast need profile, to a consistent standard, and contracting with a single party to lock in ongoing maintenance for the 30-year concession period .
The program included development of a ‘model school’ that provided a benchmark for each school within the package and ensured a common design theme and standardisation of buildings. The approach created efficiencies in construction and ongoing maintenance while allowing each school to have its own identity.
Following the PPP procurement and evaluation process, Plenary Schools Consortium was nominated as preferred contractor and worked with the Queensland Government for a rapid 12-week financial close in December 2013. In this time Plenary Schools Consortium and the Government developed a revised design review process and an external infrastructure process. The processes facilitated the timely commencement of delivery of the first stages of the first model primary and secondary schools while allowing for community engagement and enrolments.
Queensland Department of Education
Plenary Schools Consortium
Plenary Group – Project sponsor, equity investor, and financial arranger
Besix Watpac – Building contractor
Delta FM – Facilities management
Gold Coast City Council, Ipswich City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council, and Brisbane City Council
December 2013 – Financial close
January 2014 – Construction commenced
January 2015 – First package of schools opened
December 2018 – Construction completed
Results / impact
The bundling approach allowed a highly productive servicing structure to be embedded into the concession by having a central pool of specialist resources responsible for undertaking reactive and planned servicing across the school sites.
The efficient procurement, evaluation and review processes enabled timely delivery and a successful academic year in 2015 for the first model school communities.
Cost efficiency initiatives yielded from the bundling approach have delivered a 30% saving compared to the state’s benchmark cost while maintaining agreed service levels. The saving has been passed through to the state in the form of lower PPP service payments.
Locking in ongoing maintenance for the 30-year concession period achieved an efficient whole of life cost outcome.
Plenary Schools Consortium also delivered an ‘above brief’ technology package including finger-touch interactive whiteboards and projector capabilities in each classroom – a component that was an obligation for the state to provide.
Key lessons learnt
Queensland Schools PPP demonstrated how bundling schools can generate better outcomes for the Government through the development of a model school that provides a benchmark standard for each site, with the financial sponsor taking lifecycle risk ensuring their alignment with the state with respect to long-term efficiency.