Gove’s announcement secures precious funding for some schools, but there are still questions about how the procurement will work

mugs sarah richardson

Michael Gove’s highly anticipated announcement of the schools that are to receive funding under the government’s flagship school building programme, made last week, is likely to throw up some intriguing mathematical challenges for those involved.

The £2.4bn Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) covers 261 schools, which inevitably means budgets will be extremely tight - the money would equate to just under £10m per school if it were to be split evenly. Of course, projects are likely to vary enormously, but this gives some idea of the pressure firms will be under to cut the cost of delivery.

Money saved on delivering some schools projects
is directed to fund others: the move makes such
obvious sense and yet has been all too rarely made

One equation which the government has already got right, however, and for which it should be applauded, is its decision to use savings already made by contractors on other schools projects to fund a £400m capital pot for PSBP. This will allow the PSBP, the launch of which is already six months late, to get up and running before the government has finished its review into PFI, which was to be the funding route for the whole scheme. It’s the “more” side of the government’s much trumpeted “more for less” equation. Money saved on delivering some schools projects is directed to fund others: the move makes such obvious sense, and yet, in the past, that direct transfer has been all too rarely made. The challenge now for the industry and the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which is managing the programme, is to deliver it in a way that such savings can continue to be maximised.

From the EFA, this will require rapid clarity on detailed questions over procurement (see news analysis and Steve Beechey’s column). It will also need to think very carefully about how best to batch schools together - grouped procurement, to encourage a standardised response, will generate more savings the more similar the schools in question are.

The incentive for doing all this is clear. With 326 schools unsuccessful in their applications for funding, and still a huge pressure on pupil places nationwide at primary level, it’s obvious that the PSBP can only scratch the surface of the problem facing the schools estate in England. But if the programme is delivered in the most cost-efficient way possible, there is all the more chance of funds being available that could be used for future projects, offering more opportunity to those supply chains hungry for work.

The crown’s estate

With his highly publicised aversion to modern architectural “carbuncles” and to a certain scheme in Chelsea, you could be forgiven for thinking that Prince Charles was the only member of the Royal family to have an interest in the built environment. But in fact, Charles is far from the first to have taken architectural matters to heart. So as the country prepares for this weekend’s Diamond Jubilee, Building’s Ike Ijeh thought it would be appropriate to take a tour back through the ages and look at the legacy left by the Royals on the British urban landscape. Click here for a canter through the last 900-odd years, via a few cathedrals, King’s College and London Zoo. Very good, ma’am.