First, the findings have been selectively reported. For example, it was reported that the technical quality of PFI schools was "significantly worse" than their traditionally funded counterparts, but the fact that service provision was found to be better was ignored.
Second, the report has methodological limitations: it uses a small sample and only looks at the earliest projects. This is significant because factors such as the inexperience of clients and contractors in procuring them are a legacy of deficient investment in schools and hospitals, rather than the fault of the PFI route itself.
Third, the report suggests that PFI projects can be improved by better teamworking. In particular, it stresses the need for better relationships between the key players. Its recommendations, such as a more equitable balance between the operations and design-and-build contractors, and the need for a more informed client, clearly address practical managerial issues, not just ideological rhetoric.
It is pertinent to put the other side of the argument. The PFI has brought an unprecedented level of investment into schools and well as moving key issues, such as value for money and teamworking, to the fore. These projects are for the long term, so it is best not to jump to conclusions on the basis of a few melodramatic headlines. Rather than a condemnation, the study is an end-of-term report that finds promising signs for the future as well as "could do better".
Andrew Rowe, Cranfield School of Management, Bedfordshire.