News that the man who will be in charge of the capital programme for school building was coming from Boots raised a few eyebrows.
Behind closed doors it no doubt ruffled a few feathers too – others on the shortlist had worked on education projects for some of the major contractors, with valuable experience from all the lessons that have been learned from Building Schools for the Future.
But there are considerable benefits of having someone from outside the industry come in with fresh eyes, a new approach and a private-sector focus on getting things done. And who won’t face accusations of complicated loyalties to present and past employers.
As property director at Boots, Michael Green was responsible for more than 3,000 buildings nationwide. Not only that but each of those buildings bore the name of a brand that has heritage, an emphasis on customer focus and, at a local level, a track record of working with the public sector through its pharmacies.
These are all qualities that should translate well into buildings that are of enormous importance to local communities and which involve collaborating with a host of public and private sector stakeholders.
Like Sebastian James, chairman of the government-commissioned Review of Capital Expenditure for Schools – who was also group operations director for Dixons – Mr Green’s background in retail could also come in especially handy when it comes to leading the drive for standardisation.
As a private equity-owned company, it’s a pretty safe bet that Boots Alliance is pretty good at getting value for money in its developments too.
While we may not want our schools to look like shops, we can at least be sure Mr Green is used to overseeing the development of customer-focused environments, built on time and to budget.
Investment in school building has been too lumbering since the government scrapped BSF. We’ve had academies here and free schools there, but, beset by delays, the £2 billion Priority Schools Programme is starting to seem very inappropriately named.
Outgoing Partnerships for Schools staff took a lot of skills and experience with them as they left. Mr Green must now bring his experience to bear in getting the next generation of schools off the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible.