Strategic Outline Programme (SOP)
Strategic Outline Programme Submissions
The SOP will have three purposes. For the local authority to:
- demonstrate that it has developed a coherent strategic overview of the future of its education provision, including VA schools and 14-19 learning pathways, through discussion with a wide range of stakeholders, about changes that will be required, and providing evidence of the need for, and nature of, consequent investment over a ten year period;
- develop a forward programme of investment based on this overview, identify initial investment projects for a group of schools, provide clarity on the process of option appraisal behind the proposed programme and projects, and provide evidence that delivery to timescale is achievable;
- identify, if appropriate, subsequent investment projects.
Some local authorities will already have investment plans and business cases in place for education transformation and/or school modernisation. Where these exist, they can form the basis of a submission to the 21st Century Schools Programme, but may need to be reviewed in the light of the criteria set out in this document. In particular, sectoral plans (for primary, secondary or 14-19 learning pathways) will need to be effectively joined-up in SOP submissions, which need to cover all sectors and groups of learners from 3-19.
There is an obligation on local authorities to involve all appropriate bodies in preparation of their proposals, delivering a consensus approach wherever possible. These should include, amongst others, the diocesan authorities and local colleges.
The SOP template (see Appendix B) is based upon the HM Treasury 5-case model for Business Cases required by WAG. The template contains common elements with the national programme Business Case and, later on, the same elements will be developed in further detail for the individual Outline Business Cases that each authority will be required to submit. This family of Business Cases should ensure that there is a commonality of objectives throughout the programme from the national to the most local level.
How will SOPs be assessed?
In developing their strategic outline programmes local authorities will want to check that these are configured in a way that will succeed in gaining approval first time round. The programme team will welcome requests to discuss draft documents prior to submission. The assessment of submissions will follow a process which is illustrated in Diagram B.
The yellow boxes in the Diagram summarise the key issues, for which more detail is provided in the table of definitions below. Assessment will begin with the overview, and submissions that address all of these issues will go on to be considered for prioritisation of their project proposals.
The SOP template provides a structure for each authority to address the range of issues being assessed. Authorities that have not addressed all the issues, or have done so in an unsatisfactory way, will be asked to develop the overview further before proposed projects are considered. This is likely in some cases to mean that those projects will not be prioritised for band A funding. This approach reflects the importance attached to having a good overall strategy for future investment before embarking on its implementation.
Submissions that successfully address the strategic issues will then be evaluated in respect of the proposed initial investment project for a group of schools. The quality of option appraisal carried out by the authority will be the first key factor in this evaluation, by providing good evidence that the group of schools chosen as the priority project has been selected from
other options carefully considered.
Finally, the proposed delivery arrangements for the preferred project will be evaluated, in terms of factors that could delay implementation and the capacity of the local authority’s team to procure and manage contracts.
The programme team will work closely with each authority to ensure that, wherever possible, packages of investment are assembled that meet these criteria for early prioritisation.