Monday, 26 July 2010

BSF over optimistic, creating expectations that could not be met and what about those PFIs

With Building Schools for the Future a key area for political scrapping I thought it worth reproducing this item from the Public Accounts Committee on which there was a Labour majority:

'The Department for Children, Schools and Families' Building Schools for the Future

Programme (BSF) plans to renew every secondary school in the country, by rebuilding half

of them, structurally remodelling 35%, refurbishing 15% and providing Information

Communication Technology to all. Its aim is to use capital investment in new buildings as

a catalyst to improve educational outcomes. The Department estimates that the

programme will cost £52-£55 billion over its lifetime.

The Department was over-optimistic in its original planning assumptions for BSF, creating

expectations for the speed of delivery that could not be met. Of the 200 schools originally

planned to be completed by December 2008, only 42 had been by that date. Although the

Department had hoped to deliver the programme over 10-15 years, it now expects it to

take 18 years, with the last school completed in 2023.

Local authorities are responsible for the local delivery of BSF. They plan, procure and

manage the BSF school buildings. In 2004, the Department established Partnerships for

Schools to manage the national delivery of the programme. It also invited Partnerships UK,

a joint venture between the Treasury, Scottish Ministers and private companies with an

interest in public-private partnerships, to provide advice and help manage Partnerships for


The Department and Partnerships for Schools encourage local authorities to procure their

schools through a Local Education Partnership. These are 10-year partnerships to procure

a flow of projects, structured as joint ventures between the local authority, a consortium of

private companies that build, finance and maintain schools, and Building Schools for the

Future Investments (a joint venture between the Department and Partnerships UK).

It is too early to conclude whether BSF will achieve its educational objectives. To date,

over-optimism has meant the programme could not live up to expectations. Establishing

Partnerships for Schools to manage the programme centrally has helped local authorities to

deliver more effectively, but while Local Education Partnerships have potential advantages,

their value for money is yet to be proven. And it will be very challenging to deliver all

schools by 2023.

On the basis of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General,1 the Committee took

evidence from the Department for Children, Schools and Families about the cost and

progress of the programme, the use of Local Education Partnerships, the efficiency and

effectiveness of the central programme management and the effect of the recession on the


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