Building Live: Client’s capital boss Mike Green says he is open to new entrants in school building

The Education Funding Agency may look beyond traditional contractors to deliver the hundreds of thousands of extra school places it needs to provide, the client’s capital director Mike Green has said.

Speaking to Building, Green echoed comments made by housing minister Gavin Barwell and Homes and Communities Agency chairman Ed Lister that the government may need to look beyond traditional suppliers to deliver much-needed social infrastructure.

Asked if he agreed with Barwell and Lister that new entrants were needed, Green said: “Bring it on.” But he nonetheless praised the flexibility of the Education Funding Agency’s (EFA) existing contractors, saying they could “adapt themselves to whatever the best way of doing something is to deliver for us”.

Green was speaking after a panel debate at Building Live on delivering schools. According to the government’s best estimates, 600,000 extra school places are needed over the course of this parliament to 2020, while hundreds of dilapidated schools need repairing or replacing.

Green told delegates the size of the challenge facing the EFA was “enormous” and that to build schools better and faster it would need more Treasury funds. He said the EFA has “shovel ready” projects, but they need Treasury cash.

In terms of getting contractors on board, the EFA is set to procure the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme early next year.

Green also said the EFA was taking a closer look at how schools buildings could be managed more efficiently, admitting the client was “not usually happy with the way they’re [new school buildings] looked after”.

Fellow panellist Steve Beechey, group strategy director and managing director for government affairs at contractor Wates Group, blamed planning authorities and affordability issues for causing the bulk of delays on projects, rather than delivery on site.

He added that the efficiency of the schools estate should be questioned as 80% of the time school buildings are vacant. He suggested there could be a version of AirBnB for out-of-school use of buildings.

Arcadis partner and education sector leader Marcus Fagent added: “We are still doing things in terms of use of space that we did 200 years ago.” He said school designs needed to be altered to enable schools to rent out space.