Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced the go-ahead for a series of new school projects. 33 local authority ‘sample’ school projects in 14 council regions will now proceed in Barking and Dagenham, Blackpool, Camden, Derby City, Ealing, Halton, Hartlepool, Hertfordshire, Lambeth, Oldham, Poole, Somerset, St Helens and Wandsworth.
Another 119 academies - schools being given new sponsors to raise attainment for the most disadvantaged - are also intended to go ahead. Ministers have been working with sponsors to ensure they can move forward with their academies, each designed to raise standards in areas of particular need. The 44 academies at the most advanced stage in their capital planning with Partnerships for Schools will receive capital now. Capital allocations for the remaining 75 will be decided in the Spending Review. Sponsors of these academies will be working with the Department to reduce costs over the next few months.
To ensure best value for money in school projects, the Government has begun working with major companies from the construction industry to help reduce building costs, which, alongside the independent capital review will provide a genuinely robust, efficient and fair system for future school building projects.
As the Coalition Government has made clear, deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain. That’s why the Government has taken the difficult decisions necessary to equip Britain for long-term success. In the long term, and following the wider capital review, the Government wants money to reach a local level quicker, so that money reaches the schools that need it the most.
Michael Gove, Education Secretary, said:
I’m delighted that the sample schools and academy projects are going ahead, and I hope that local authorities and schools will welcome this news. This is good news for those schools.
I know how hard councils and schools have worked on these projects and I have been anxious to ensure we can do everything we can, in difficult economic times, to support the crucial work of raising educational standards. Planning for these projects is well advanced and we are keen they should proceed without further delay. I’m determined that we press ahead with the Academies programme and want all those schools identified as future academies to enjoy the freedoms and benefits academy status brings.
We will also work with councils, sponsors and the construction industry to ensure we bear down on costs and bureaucracy so every new school is built in as cost-effective and efficient a way as possible, and I am delighted that they have already responded so positively to this challenge.
Speaking today, John McDonough, of Carillion plc, said:
The private sector welcomes the opportunity to apply its experience and skills to demonstrate how it can reduce costs and improve value for money in the delivery of public sector building projects in the future, and we look forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with the Capital Review Team.
Tim Byles, Chief Executive of Partnerships for Schools, said:
I am very pleased that today’s announcement means the continuation of all the Building Schools for the Future sample schemes. Schools, local authorities and the private sector have worked hard to progress these projects and this will be welcome news for communities across the country.
Major academy sponsors also welcomed today’s announcement, saying they stand ready to take on more projects over the next few years.
Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation, said:
We know from direct and hard-won experience that the current method of getting new school buildings is unwieldy, over bureaucratic and too expensive. We welcome the Government’s commitment to getting better value for money from the process and we are delighted that ministers are pressing ahead with the Academies programme. Academies have a great track record in turning round under-achievement and today’s announcement means more children will benefit from the freedoms and excellence academies embody. We look forward to the programme going further and faster in the months ahead.
Sir Ewan Harper of the United Learning Trust said:
The Government have been working closely with us and other academy providers to raise standards and get better value for taxpayers’ money.
We’re in a position now to go forward, giving more children in disadvantaged circumstances a better education at a faster pace than ever.
Cllr Edward Lister, Leader of Wandsworth Council said:
We’re delighted that all the sample schemes now have the go-ahead. The Building Schools for the Future model has forced councils to waste millions jumping though bureaucratic hoops before any building work could get underway. At Wandsworth we have some very good ideas about how to meet the challenge of ensuring value for money for the taxpayer and are looking forward to giving evidence to the review team in the weeks ahead.
At the time of last month’s capital announcement all projects past the financial close stage of BSF were given the go-ahead to proceed, with other schools earlier in the process stopped.
A further group of schools and academies required more detailed assessment because they were at crucial points of development.
The sample schools, pilot projects in local authorities who have yet to commence wider building programmes, are BSF projects at an advanced stage which had not yet reached ‘financial close’.
These discussions have been bolstered by the positive contribution made by leading construction companies, who have agreed to ensure they bear down on building costs wherever possible over the next few years.
The Government has been clear that the end of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme does not signal the end of new school buildings. BSF accounted for just a third of all the money spent on education capital investments. The Government is committed to ensuring there is a fairer, more effective and more efficient system for allocating capital money to schools, to best meet the need of the schools system.
Last month the Government announced the creation of a capital review led by Sebastian James, Group Operations Director of DSG International plc, to look at all areas of the Department’s capital spending.
The aim of the review is to ensure that future capital investment is better value for money, less bureaucratic and more cost efficient. It will give priority to schools with the greatest need and seek to address rising primary school numbers.
Today, Sebastian James issued a call for evidence to inform his review. Views are being sought from all interested parties including schools, local authorities, construction industry and academy sponsors.
Sebastian James said:
I believe that there is a chance for us all to make a real difference to how hard we can make any available capital work for us, and the speed that we can change the learning environment for our children.
I am excited to be working with a team with great experience and commitment and the views that we can harvest from this call for evidence will be extremely helpful in shaping the thinking for the future. I hope that we will see a strong response from a wide range of people.
The call for evidence runs from 6 August to 17 September 2010 and can be accessed at the Department’s consultations website. The Capital Review Team will report to ministers in mid-September and a forward plan for capital investment over the next spending review period will be produced by the end of the calendar year.
Notes to editors
- Details on the Independent Capital Review and the original announcement on BSF can be found in the 5 July press notice.
- The BSF process resulted in some schools being treated as sample schools. Where the BSF scheme was the first to go forward in its area the contract tendering exercise involved detailed design work by shortlisted bidders on a small number of schools within the group - usually two schools. The local authority for the area chose the schools - often one school due to be built new or rebuilt together with one due for refurbishment. These are known as sample schools.
- The list of schools whose projects are going ahead is available to download from this page.