The Department for Education and Skills is planning to select 150 contractor-led supply chains to carry out its 15-year, £60bn schools programme
Speaking at an conference on supply-chain organisation on Monday, Peter Stanton-Ife, director of the DfES' Building Schools for the Future programme, said there would be "up to 150 supply chains" chosen for new-build and refurbishment deals.

This figure corresponds to the number of Local Education Authorities, which suggests that each will have its own supply chain.

Stanton-Ife indicated that the DfES would use the prime contracting form of procurement – selecting a main contractor that then chooses its suppliers – rather than assembling and managing teams itself.

He said: "In terms of getting the schools programme running, the DfES would want to be at the prime contracting end."

In the future, he added, the department may consider selecting project managers with educational expertise to pick the design and construction team.

In the most generous assessment, these clients are not best of breed

Peter Stanton-Ife, DfES

Building Schools for the Future is to launch its six standard designs for schools in mid-November. Future schools projects will be expected to use these designs. Stanton-Ife said he also wanted to standardise procurement practices, the forms of contract and the supply chains. There will be a national body to assist LEAs with procurement.

Stanton-Ife said that, at present, education clients were below par: "There is a reputational risk for the construction industry in that they are dealing with people who, in the most generous assessment, are not best of breed [as clients]."

Conference delegates also heard that NHS Estates, the government healthcare client, may cull some of the 12 partners working on the national roll-out of its Procure 21 building programme. Procure 21 involves the investment of £1.2-1.4bn a year for between five and 10 years.