Consultants switch resources from BSF and rush to make contacts with parent and teacher groups

Consultants and architects are racing to reorganise their Building Schools for the Future teams so they can bid for the government’s “free schools” initiative.

Several firms have formed free school units and met with parent groups, as well as journalist Toby Young. The government has pledged £50m for the schools up to next March, and about 20 projects are being planned.

One of the consultants is EC Harris, which has teamed up with a developer, architect and engineer and met with Rachel Wolf, head of New Schools Network, the government-funded body leading the programme.

Simon Lucas, head of education at EC Harris, said people were “beating a path” to Wolf’s door.

He has also had met with Young, who is planning a school in Acton, west London, and done “pro bono” work for him.

Davis Langdon has also set up a team comprising a private equity group, a contractor, an architect and an educationalist, and is preparing to meet Wolf.

Paul Zuccherelli, education boss at Davis Langdon, said: “Everyone is trying to position themselves. We think this could become bigger, which is why we’re putting the investment in.”

Wolf said: “We’ve been contacted by a range of architects and builders. We’re waiting for a decision by the department [of education] on how it will work.”

Among the architects, Space Group is working on a project and Surface to Air has advertised in this week’s Times Educational Supplement for interested groups.

The news comes amid continued fallout from the decision to close BSF. A number of local councils, led by Nottingham, have said they may sue the government for costs incurred in the process. The Local Government Association said councils spent £160m working up cancelled BSF schemes, on top of the £100m spent by contractors.

The UK Contractors Group wrote to Michael Gove, the education secretary, this week warning of the costs likely to be incurred by reinstating teams that have been stood down.