Councils could publish schools plans

12 February 2010

New strategic plans for schools estates could give contractors greater visibility about forthcoming work, Construction News reported.

Partnerships for Schools (PfS) intends to work with local authorities to create overarching plans for school estates and outline how work will be procured.

Initially charged with delivering the £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme, PfS was given responsibility for all schools capital projects from 1 October  2009, giving the body an annual budget in the region of £8bn.

PfS Chief executive Tim Byles told Construction News: “We need to agree on priorities with local authorities and get strategic plans in place. We want to challenge local authorities on their school plans – our aim is to create better environments for children, whether that be through PCP [Primary Capital Programme], BSF, academies or another route.”

Construction News reported that PfS intends to look at councils’ plans for primary and secondary schools and make sure they fit its vision. Plans for developing the estate will then be published and divided into various contracts to be procured through the organisation’s many programmes.

As well as BSF, the body looks after the Primary Capital Programme, the Devolved Formula Capital Scheme and the Targeted Capital Programme. It also oversees the £4 billion academies framework and the £200m co-location fund.

Byles added that major contract bundles could emerge to provide a council’s entire primary and secondary schools needs, potentially alongside related leisure and housing projects. But at the same time he envisaged creating smaller refurbishment packages to suit the expertise of regional and specialist firms.

Enabling contractors to work for councils across an increasing number of workstreams is a long term aim for PfS. The report added that Local Education Partnerships, the vehicle used to deliver BSF schools, are likely to be created to work alongside the academies framework.

The proposals for these strategic plans are being announced by PfS at a time of uncertainty for its future, ahead of the general election. Shadow schools minister Nick Gibbs hinted last year that in the bid to slash spending there could be big changes in spending on schools if the Conservatives are elected, claiming “the front-line is what matters, not government quangos.” 

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