This morning readers put their questions to an expert panel, and this is what they said…

More than 180 people took part in’s live BSF debate this morning, expressing a wide range of opinions about the cancelled scheme and asking questions about what will replace it.

In the question and answer session with a panel of BSF experts, readers differed greatly in their opinions of BSF, with one describing it as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” while others called it “elitist” and accused it of producing “costly, lengthy and overdesigned schemes”.

The debate took in topics such as whether new-builds improve educational attainment as well as opportunities for construction under the new ‘free’ schools and academies policies.

An architect taking part in the debate said: “many architects supported BSF bidders on a speculative basis which was commercially unsustainable and only made sense if there were long term gains. Many virtually gave away their skills and experience.”

In a reader poll, 84% said Michael Gove’s decision to scrap BSF had had a harmful effect on their business.

On the panel were:

  • Jonathan Hart, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons projects and construction group
  • James Bowyer, head of Building Schools for the Future and other major schools programmes for EC Harris
  • Chris Hill, the head of construction and engineering at law firm Norton Rose.

On the question of compensation claims, Jonathan Hart said: “It is worth noting that the options which Councils will looking be at will be based primarily in the arena of judicial review, whereas disappointed bidders […] may be more readily looking at possible grounds for challenge under the procurement rules”

James Bowyer tackled the issue of future capital spending on education projects by saying: “We do know that education in particular, remains in the top three national priorities for public services for the new Government. In order for the reforms to continue, there will still be a need to invest in infrastructure as well as services.”

When the debate turned to perceived weaknesses in BSF, Chris Hill commented: “Virtually from inception in 2004 professionals throughout the industry complained about the programme - everything from the bid costs to the endless bureaucracy associated with the various bidding stages.

“The element of the scheme inciting greatest anger - particularly among sponsors - was the process of creating a Local Education Partnership (LEP) and the subsequent Strategic Partnering Agreement (SPA) between the LEP and the local authority.”

To read the transcript  go to

And if you wish to continue the debate with other construction professionals go to