Architecture watchdog CABE has introduced guidelines to improve the design of PFI schools.
Achieving Well-Designed Schools Through PFI is aimed at local education authorities, the private sector and schools. It recommends that LEAs should establish design benchmarks when applying for PFI credits. This would be done by visiting successful PFI schools and studying the limitations of proposed sites.

The guide says: "Perhaps because PFI credits are awarded by the Department for Education and Skills, there is a tendency towards acceptance or dependency. There can be a misconception that there is little scope for ingenuity and as a result little, if any, benchmarking takes place."

Cabe argues that LEAs should commission feasibility studies to test the design brief. It adds that architects should be used to help draw up the objectives of these studies.

A further recommendation is that head teachers should be involved in the client team from the outset. However, the report says the head teacher's role should not be exaggerated, because a number of people are likely to hold the position during the lifetime of a PFI school.

Richard Feilden, a Cabe commissioner, said the guide was timely as the second wave of PFI school projects was imminent. He said: "The document brings together practical information to advise clients in their journey through the PFI process – from the first ideas through to welcoming children on their first day in their new school."