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priority school building programme

16 September 2011

Education consultations and the priority school building programme (PSBP)

Earlier this year, the government responded to Sebastian James’ review into school procurement. The key points of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s statement were as follows:

James report recommendations

The government will move 'more quickly' on some of the other James recommendations, including:

developing a suite of standardised designs for school buildings

  • collecting condition data to allow funding to be targeted
  • simplification of the school premises regulations.

Consultations

Whilst the government wishes to accept 'the majority' of the James report recommendations, this is subject to a new consultation that will run until 11 October and focus on two key areas:

  • the best model for allocating and prioritising capital
  • proposals for a more centralised procurement process.

The Government is also consulting in relation to:

  • school funding reform. The government propose to introduce a new national formula so that money is allocated more consistently across the country; expand the eligibility criteria of the Pupil Premium; and fund high need pupils and early education
  • whether the government should implement the reforms from 2013-14 or wait until a later spending period. The current funding system will be maintained schools for 2012-13. Details of the arrangements for funding academies in 2012/13 “will be available in due course"
  • the 16-19 funding formula and methodology.

Funding

An extra £500 million of capital funding will be available this financial year for more school places in areas 'of greatest need' – especially primary schools.

Of perhaps greatest interest to schools will be a new privately financed school building programme – (the PSBP) - to focus on school buildings in greatest need of repair. Between 100 and 300 schools were expected to benefit from "around £2 billion in up front construction costs”. Local authorities, schools, and other organisations with responsibility for them have until 14 October to apply for funding.

There are still a number of questions surrounding these schemes but, in most cases, they are expected to be centrally procured 'batched' PFI schemes. It also seems likely that existing standardised documentation will be built upon to deliver these schemes – particularly given the James review’s recommendations that capital procurements become more standardised.

The new money attached to the PSPB must be set in the context of an estimated £30-£40 million school maintenance backlog and cancellation of many Building Schools for the Future projects. Nevertheless those local authorities, academies and maintained schools with education estate in the greatest need will await the decision of Partnerships for Schools on their applications (and further details on the form of these procurements) with interest. PfS has stated that decisions on applications will be made in December.

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