Government primary school building programme on track for April, as academies framework expands

A £7bn primary school building programme led by the government will get under way in April, providing further public sector work to boost the flagging construction industry.

The news comes as the government has announced it is doubling the size of its academies framework to £4bn of projects.

Councils are expected to be invited to submit proposals for primary schools in the next fortnight, to enable the programme to be up and running next spring.

The procurement route is still being settled by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and secondary school delivery body Partnerships for Schools (PfS), which is likely to be involved in running the scheme.

Government sources said it was likely councils would be advised to procure projects either through local education partnerships, which are being used for the bulk of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) schemes, or through existing local frameworks.

The government intends to rebuild or refurbish 8,000 of the UK’s 18,000 primary schools under the 15-year programme.

Meanwhile, the expansion of the academies framework will open the deal, which currently includes six contractors, to up to 10 firms. The tender process for the framework, which can be used for academies and BSF programmes up to the value of £150m, will begin early next year, with firms expected to be bidding for work from October 2009. The current deal, which includes Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Willmott Dixon, will expire in 2010.

Tim Byles, chief executive of PfS, said: “We are already seeing the value of the framework approach – both for the public purse and in terms of educational transformation.”