Press release

Overhaul to England’s school building programme

Information on Michael Gove's plans to overhaul school capital investment in England, including details of Sebastian James's review.

(Updated 12 July 2010)

Education Secretary Michael Gove today set out a complete overhaul of capital investment in England’s schools.

Mr Gove said he was making tough, immediate decisions to help get the best value for money.

Bringing an end to Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF), he said in the light of the public finances, it would have been irresponsible to carry on regardless with an inflexible, and needlessly complex programme.

And he said it was right to set out a clear way forward for prudent future capital investment in education up to 2015, to flexibly target schools in the worst condition, cut red tape, and tackle urgent demand from rising birth-rates.

Michael Gove discusses the Building Schools for the Future programme

The Chancellor made clear in last month’s budget that existing overall public capital investment plans, put in place by the previous government, would remain with no further cuts.

The key elements of today’s announcement are that:

  • 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 team includes Kevin Grace (Tesco Director of Property Services), Barry Quirk (Chief Executive of Lewisham), John Hood (former Vice-Chancellor of University of Oxford) and Sir John Egan (former Chief Executive of Jaguar and BAA)
  • the review will guide future spending decisions over the next spending review period (from the financial year 2011 to 2012 to the financial year 2014 to 2015). It will look at how best to meet parental demand, make current design and procurement cost-effective and efficient, and overhaul how capital is allocated and targeted.
  • the Department for Education is reducing its end-year flexibility (EYF) requirements by £1 billion to help ensure no additional borrowing this year. This is in line with the government’s plan to reduce the deficit, and the Treasury’s announcement today that departments have agreed to address unrealistic inherited spending commitments for the financial year 2010 to 2011, where funding was reliant on underspends through the EYF system or additional funding from the government’s reserve. The department expects to be able to manage most of this through better financial management and tighter controls. Because of the size of the reduction, however, the department will have to make £156.5 million savings from capital budgets where commitments are no longer affordable.

The Secretary of State is also announcing today that he will be ending the £972,000 annual funding for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) design advice service associated with the BSF programme.

Sebastian James, Group Operations Director of DSG International plc and chair of the review, 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.

This has also been welcomed by educational organisations with experience of working through the current BSF process.

Sir Bruce Liddington, Director General of E-Act said:

The current BSF programme is very bureaucratic, slow and unwieldy and I would welcome a review.

Aredi Pitsiaeli, Director of Business and Strategic Development at Oasis Community Learning said:

We welcome the review of the BSF programme as to learn lessons from past experience in order to find a better way of working for the future can only be a good thing.

Further information

Michael Gove comments on BSF announcement

Sebastian James biography

Terms of reference of capital investment review

Impact of Building Schools for the Future announcement of Monday 5 July 2010

Audio of the Secretary of State speaking on BSF

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