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Strategic Outline Programme (SOP)

Strategic Outline Programme (SOP)

For the 21st Century Schools and Education Capital Programme, all local authorities need to submit a Strategic Outline Programme (SOP). This submission needs to set out the key projects, funding streams and critical delivery path for the first wave of this investment.

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 which includes Voluntary Aided (VA) schools and 14-19 learning pathways. Develop the overview through discussion with a wide range of stakeholders.  Demonstrate changes that will be required, and provide 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, identifying initial investment projects for a group of schools. The programme should provide clarity on the process of option appraisal behind the proposed programme and projects.  It should also evidence that delivery to a 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.  However, these may need to be reviewed in the light of the criteria set out in the ‘Better Business Cases – using the Five case model’  and also know as the   ‘HM Treasury Green Book’. In particular, sectoral plans (for primary, secondary or 14-19 learning pathways) will need to be effectively joined-up in SOP submissions.  It is crucial that all sectors and groups of learners from 3-19 are considered in the submission.

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 follows the ‘Better Business Cases – using the Five case model’   and is also know as the   ‘HM Treasury Green Book’.  . Following approval of the SOP, local authorities will be required to submit individual Business Justification or Full Business Cases (depending on overall cost). This family of Business Cases will ensure a commonality of objectives throughout the programme from the national to the most local level.

How will SOPs be assessed?

In developing strategic outline programmes, local authorities need to ensure that these are configured in a way that will gain 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 in the ‘Process for Assessment of SOP Submission’ download below.  Submissions should address all key issues identified in the yellow boxes.  Assessments will begin with the overview and if all key issues are addressed 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.  Good evidence that the group of schools chosen as priority projects have been selected from
other carefully considered options needs to be provided.

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.