Engauge - Questions and Asnwers

What is the Engauge project trying to achieve – what are the aims and objectives?
To help schools assess and improve their sustainability performance, looking at whole-school activity, procedures and principles.

How was Engauge developed?

As a local initiative, arising from ongoing work with West Sussex schools.

What was the pilot area and why were those schools chosen? 
Schools in and around Billinghurst resulting from a market test presentation.

Is this not similar to so many other projects headed by the Council e.g. Safer Routes to School, Travelwise, EcoSchools, For Better Tomorrows? What is different about this project, in particular Eco Schools?
The initial Engauge assessment measures a school’s activity in all these initiatives and aims to show them in relation to each other.

It also signposts schools to those initiatives if they are not already working on them and Engauge helps schools link with local specialists to enable improvements as indicated in the sustainability assessment.

Engauge goes beyond ticking boxes – it encourages schools to join words and actions, encouraging whole school behaviour change.

 How was the SusGauge developed and how was each area (petal) identified?
Initially from an environmental assessment process – then further developed to align with the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ (DCSF) eight doorways for sustainable schools.

Assessment

What is the assessment and how does it work?
The SusGauge assesses the school’s work on sustainability in each of the eight areas. Questions are weighted according to importance as defined by local specialists and in line with the DCSF’s S3 guidance.

Do schools do it themselves or does someone come out to assess them?

assessment – but self-assessment is expected to be in place initially as a pilot by December 2009

What is the process of the assessments?

An appointment is made, usually with the headteacher and other staff such as a bursar, business or premises’ manager, for the SusGauge assessor to visit the school. Going through the SusGauge survey takes about one hour, the results are generated immediately and the school is given a copy of their unique SusGauge report (in the shape of a flower) which can be printed out for display.

Does it give schools ratings for each area?
Scores range from 0-45 for each petal area, with a maximum total of 360 points. 

How does a school then work to improve their rating in different areas?
Either by self-application, using existing resources, or commissioning County Council or other local specialists to help research and plan the improvements, write an action plan, etc.

Is it an annual assessment?
A school can opt for an annual assessment, especially as part of an initial action plan, but we would normally suggest a three-year re-assessment cycle to allow time for the whole school behaviour change that the DCSF desires.

How does it help schools – what will they get out of doing the SusGauge?
The SusGauge gives a thorough overview of a school's existing work on initiatives such as TravelWise and Healthy Schools. Their sustainability performance is profiled in an easy, at-a-glance visual format, against that expected by DCSF.  And the SusGauge report helps schools to prioritise their sustainability improvements.

How much does it cost schools to take part?

The initial SusGauge assessment is currently free to West Sussex maintained schools. Other establishments are invited to take part on a negotiated fee-paying basis.

How much does it cost schools to improve their rating?
This is each school’s choice, and depends on the amount of work required and if external specialists are involved or new equipment installed (not always necessary).

Does the SusGauge link with Ofsted inspections? 
Sustainability is included in Ofsted expectations Engauge aims to support schools by making specialists available to them who can assist with meaningful action plans fit for schools to make available to Ofsted.

Ongoing Success

What are the next steps?
Next steps are dependent on continued funding, but it is hoped that the team will:

  • Assess remaining schools in West Sussex for sustainability
  • Recruit and invest in more local specialists
  • Create local energy/water management consortium to support West Sussex schools
  • Gather best practice case studies on sustainability from the county's schools  
  • Work with curriculum providers to create a sustainability accreditation
  • Work with/invest in Local Business support for West Sussex schools
  • Help research and develop funding opportunities for schools
Is there a vision of what will happen after?
It is hoped that Engauge will become a one-stop shop for sustainability in schools, initially serving the county’s schools, but hopefully it will be developed for use across the community and possibly roll out to other authorities

How will Engauge be judged to be a success?

  • Phase one is for all schools in West Sussex to have their sustainability activity measured by a SusGauge assessment by December 2009.
  •  Phase two is for 50% of schools achieving low SusGauge scores to have a coherent action plan for tackling the problem areas by the end of 2010, and 100% of low scoring schools tackling it by 2012.
  • Finally, all schools in West Sussex to show to be realistically sustainable before 2020 (the government’s target date).

Specialists

Who are the specialists involved in Engauge?
See details on the Contact Us page.

Why aren’t specialists giving their time for free to schools?
They are local businesses that need to be paid for their services – if this project is to be sustainable! Sustainability improvements must be paid for and the Engauge project has to be based on realistic methods of procurement.

Why do external specialists have to be involved - why can’t WSCC provide the advice for free?
WSCC is going through a strenuous fundamental service review aimed at delivering more less expensively. This necessitates efficiency savings and it can no longer can accommodate in-house specialists to take the required action.
 
How would specialists been cleared to go in schools?  Are they CRB/Trading Standards checked?
Specialists are required to sign up to the procurement framework specially designed for Engauge.

Will more specialists be appointed?
Yes.

How?
Recruitment / networking / school protocol familiarisation session (sessions run by the Engauge project team to educate consultants in the particular needs and way of working of a school environment).

Are the specialists from West Sussex/the local area?
For West Sussex Schools yes wherever possible

How will schools get in touch with specialists?
Via the Engauge support team.

What are the criteria for specialists/businesses to get involved?

  • To be able to demonstrate that they will give good support to schools.
  • To get work done at a reasonable rate.
  • To assist schools in writing development and action plans as necessary.
  • To be able to think and act in synergy with other specialists in the Engauge team.
  • To demonstrate they are a sustainable business
  • To commit to the Engauge procurement framework.

Testimonials

The feedback from the assessments has been very positive, and the Engauge team is continually striving to improve the service offered by taking schools' comments into account and developing a new improved Susgauge (which will be available during 2009/2010).

West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Economy, Deborah Urquhart, said: "Local councils in the South East region have signalled much interest in Engauge and the use of the Susgauge.

"The South East England Development Agency, the Government Office for the South East, the Local Government Information Unit and the Department for Children, Schools and Families have all cited Engauge as an example for good practice for delivering sustainable schools."

Also during 2009/2010 the aim is for the Susgauge assessment tool to be available on-line so that schools can self-assess at any point, particularly if they have recently implemented some new initiatives around sustainability issues.  This new tool is currently being designed and will be ready to test during the autumn term.