Council chief joins to spearhead £100m pipeline of opportunity

Sunesis is targeting a £100 million pipeline of orders within three years for its pre-designed educational solutions following the appointment of Bedford Borough Council’s head of school infrastructure and partnerships, Fran Cox, as its new operations director.
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Fran Cox

Fran Cox joins Sunesis, jointly owned by Willmott Dixon and Scape Group, in the newly created senior-level role to oversee ambitious growth plans, as increasing numbers of local authorities and private developers use the solution as a fast, efficient and cost effective way to meet their urgent need to provide extra school places.

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Last year the Department for Education forecasted that 750,000 extra school places would be needed in England by 2025 to keep up with the population increase, with schools seeing sixteen consecutive years of rising pupil numbers.

Primrose Primary School in Yeovil

Sunesis aims to be part of the solution to this challenge and has already delivered 28 primary schools since its first school was commissioned in 2011, alongside a further 40 Connect school extensions, creating over 18,000 new places in total. It plans to deliver over 7,500 school places by 2020, with Fran’s experience in the procurement and funding of new schools key to driving this growth.

Sunesis currently offers a range of three pre-designed primary schools, the Keynes, Paxton and Dewey, each in a variety of form entry sizes and with designs that can be adapted by customers to meet their specific needs. All are offered with absolute certainty of cost, time and quality – with fixed prices between £2.8m to £5.5m and fast-track programmes to complete within nine months of being commissioned.

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Tim Carey, Willmott Dixon’s national product director:

“Fran’s arrival is an important next stage of our growth as an established provider of new schools. Her experience at Bedford Borough Council will give us the quantum leap to roll out Sunesis to even more customers, supported by our new ability to licence the system for other contractors to build.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, comments, “Fran’s experience in commissioning new schools provides a real depth of insight into the needs of local authorities and the issues they face. The country has a very significant school building challenge ahead, with over 2,000 new schools needed in the next few years, and Fran will help Sunesis to play a vital role in filling the gap in school places nationally.”

Sunesis has been a popular solution for authorities including Somerset County Council, Isle of Wight Council, Warwickshire County Council, Lincolnshire County Council, Plymouth City Council, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, London Borough of Croydon and North Somerset Council.

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With councils facing ever tighter constraints on funding, Sunesis has prospered with its pre-designed, fixed-price solution that has been refined through input from teachers and education specialists into an optimum learning environment that can last many generations. The proven designs come with supply chain guarantees to ensure completion on time, a major consideration with timescales typically focused on the important start of the school year in September.

Fran Cox:

“It’s a really exciting time to join Sunesis - there is huge potential and having experienced Sunesis schools as a client, I know they have already been extremely valuable to councils in meeting their chronic need for new school places. Sunesis offers clear timescales for delivery, flexibility where it’s needed, and absolute certainty of cost, providing an attractive solution for local authorities. I am very much looking forward to driving Sunesis through its next phase of growth."

Future innovation underway includes a new Keynes model that is fully EFA Output Specification compliant, a new Connect range of standardised components to provide fully flexible standalone or classroom extension options, plus a new secondary school offer.