Watts Bulletin

New approach to building schools

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has announced a complete overhaul of capital investment in England’s schools.

Speaking on 5 July, Michael Gove announced a new approach to school buildings, aimed at achieving the best value for money from capital budgets. Bringing to an end the former Labour Government’s ambitious Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF), the Education Secretary said that, in the light of the public finances, it was right to set out a clear way forward for prudent future capital investment in education.

In last month’s Budget, Chancellor George Osborne made it clear that existing overall public capital investment plans, put in place by the previous Government, would remain with no further cuts. However the way in which investment is delivered is clearly subject to change. The main points of Michael Gove’s announcement were as follows:

that 706 schools will be opened under the new arrangements, of which nearly 386 schools are projected to be new build; 262 are to be remodelled or refurbished and 26 are to be ICT-only. The building programme in 32 further schools is yet to be confirmed. 

  • That 715 schools will no longer be rebuilt or refurbished through BSF. 
  • That 123 academy projects which have not reached financial close will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 
  • That 14 cases, prioritised locally as 'sample' projects, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis in recognition of local need. 
  • The Department of Education is reducing its End Year Flexibility requirements by £1 billion to help ensure no additional borrowing this year. Because of the size of the reduction, £156.5 million savings will be made from capital budgets where commitments are no longer affordable.

The Government is launching a comprehensive review of all capital investment in schools, early years, colleges and sixth forms, led by Sebastian James, Group Operations Director of DSG international plc. The review will guide future spending decisions over the next Spending Review period from 2011-12 to 2014-15, looking at how best to meet parental demand, make current design and procurement cost-effective and efficient and overhaul how capital is allocated and targeted.

Commenting on the new review process, Sebastian James, said:

“I am delighted to be involved in this vital project and feel very passionately that we can build a schools infrastructure in Britain that is truly world class, while significantly reducing our spending. In my view, success in this review means that we will have found a way to have great schools for our children against a more measured investment backdrop.”
The Secretary of State also announced in July that he will be ending the £972,000 annual funding for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment design advice service associated with the BSF programme.

According to Noble Francis of the construction Products Association, construction firms have lost an estimated £100 million in winning bids that will not now go ahead. He also calculates that the industry as a whole stands to lose around £39 billion as a result of the programme being axed.

For more information go to www.education.gov.uk

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