Response to the James Review leaves some key questions unanswered

The announcements from Michael Gove on Tuesday were delivered with the rapidity of a student eager to get all assignments out of the way before the summer break.

By launching a new PFI programme of school building to address schools in the poorest condition, throwing in some money for schools short of pupil places, and saying he was “broadly supportive” of the James review’s proposals, the impression that Gove was trying to create was that the school building programme is getting moving again, but in a more efficient way than before. But is it?

The government’s response gives a clear indication of the direction of some aspects of school building. Standardisation must happen, and regulations will be simplified. A national study of school building condition will be commissioned.

Despite this, the government has launched a further consultation on one of James’ key recommendations - the question of the degree of central control over school procurement. This illustrates that in reality, we are still a way off of a coherent school building programme.

Without understanding who is responsible for getting schools built, it’s hard to see how any of the other measures can take off. And if local authorities are given more power than James envisaged, how do you make the economies of scale that the government says it wants stack up?