Fifteen qualified contractors hope list will be preferred route for future government spending

The government is to use the national academies contractors’ framework to trial fast-track schools procurement.

In the first move towards a new system after the £55bn Building Schools for the Future scheme was scrapped, delivery agency Partnerships for Schools (PfS) is releasing the first of what is expected to be three trial projects under the framework.

The scheme will test some of the changes suggested by the Sebastian James report into schools procurement. It is understood that PfS is aiming to cut the procurement time to about 25 weeks, compared with the usual year-long process.

This, and two further projects, will be restricted to the 15 contractors that qualified for the framework last year, fuelling speculation that the deal will be a main route for schools work.
Sources close to the deal said they expected that the framework would handle less work than the £4bn originally advertised, but that it was expected to be a favoured route for what government spending remained.

Among the changes being implemented are a shortening of the pre-tender questionnaire and a halving of the time to return it from two weeks to one. One source said he understood there would be “less input from consultants, and probably less engagement with schools in the early stages”. The source added that benchmark costs for projects were also being driven down.

The 15 contractors on the framework are Apollo, Balfour Beatty, Bam, Bovis Lend Lease, Carillion, Clugston, Interserve, Kier, Leadbitter, Rydon, Shepherd, Sir Robert McAlpine, Vinci, Wates and Willmott Dixon.

They were briefed on the projects in a meeting with PfS last Thursday. The first scheme, worth about £11m, is a new secondary school in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, on the site of a school which was destroyed by fire just before Christmas.It is understood the other two trial schemes will be a sixth form extension and an academy.