One would think that having just completed our largest capital building project in the College’s history that we would be all out of ‘cash’, never mind more initiatives!
It is true our College borrowings have increased but we are very fortunate that the Board’s building Master Plan coincided with historically low interest rates, competitive building prices and more flexible bank products that will enable us to repay debt without compromising new educational initiatives.
Of course, renovating and modernising our campus is now a core characteristic of our financial resourcing, which reflects the age of our establishment and the fact we want to be competitive and proactive towards the needs of our students’ learning experience. We are currently assessing widening aspects of The Gallus and Cordner Buildings and then refurnishing based on the latest pedagogical research into enhanced learning environments. Simple concepts, such as ‘smart paint’ that allows students to write directly on the walls, invites students to easily form project groups and display their ideas from all quarters of the room. High table bars and stools are mixed with flexible interlocking tables and even soft furnishings to keep the learning visual perspective fresh and mind-stimulating.
I won’t steal too much thunder from the Head of Junior School, Mr Paul Taylor, but a significant redesign of the Junior School reception and offices is also in planning for later this year. I am so impressed with the passion and ideas our College Leadership displays in determining our building designs and features and all with the intent of maximising the quality of the Somerset Experience.
New facilities also open up new opportunities to engage with our wider community. There are now more spaces to hire out to other schools and clubs: the track, basketball courts, fitness room, allied health rooms and function rooms. It is quite likely that we will generate as much income from our grandstand café and function rooms as we will from the sports facility itself; add a barista and snacks and they will come, appears to be the winning formula!
I am also tracking our solar power generation from the 100kW system we have installed on the roof of the Fitness Centre. Already, from the convenience of an app, I can see we harvested 12 megawatts of electricity in March and this is all used between the pool, the Fitness Centre and The Ray Building. The analyst in me looks forward to evaluating the impact on our peak load charge and overall electricity bill; if it’s not good enough we might all have to pedal faster in the gym!
Though these are the larger ticket items I have covered, I am equally focused on finance initiatives that deliver better service levels, particularly transaction options for parents. The generous fees-paid-in-advance discount 5.5% was very well subscribed and the system worked better than last year, but there are still improvements to be made to simplify the online payment and statement experience. Likewise, we are looking for a stable and consistent payment system to cater for the growth in peripatetic activities.
It is fantastic that we can continue to expand the variety and choice of activities to students and community members and we do recognise that people sometimes just want to try activities for a Term or Semester or that they can’t make a session for a multitude of reasons! We continue to develop and improve the supporting transactional environment that caters for all these eventualities and to capture them accurately and simply on your statement. This is a work in progress but we do aim for the highest standards and a smooth experience for everyone!
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