Education and skills secretary Estelle Morris said last week that bonuses paid to contractors could be linked to pupils' examination results. Firms responded that this would mean PFI consortiums would need more control over schools' educational policy.
The Department for Education and Skills confirmed this week that it was seeking feedback from local education authorities on such a move.
A DfES statement said: "In the current PFI bidding rounds, we have asked local education authorities to propose how improvement in attainment achieved by their PFI proposal could be measured."
David Clements, PFI boss at WS Atkins, said the firm was interested in such proposals, but added that education PFI contracts would need to be overhauled to give consortiums more control over teaching standards.
Clements said: "We wouldn't shy away from that risk if we had control of all the factors. It's not too different to the way other services are delivered in different sector, such as prisons." PFI consortiums are responsible for the number of assaults that occur in new prisons.
Patrick Gardiner, Jarvis Projects' managing director, said measurement would be problematic.
We wouldn’t shy away from the risk if we had control of all the factors
David Clements, WS Atkins
He said: "There are beginning to be some improvements in educational attainment following the move into a new school building, but how much can be put down to the facilities is hard to work out.
"Such a move in PFI is on the horizon, but our concern is that other factors can have a greater effect on student performance than the facilities."
Gardiner said initial research had shown that such a linkage in PFI contracts would be more effective for primary schools than secondary ones.
He added that certain improvements in schools built through PFI could be measured, such as truancy rates.
The DfES said that one live PFI had already factored pupil performance into the payment mechanism. This was a non-construction PFI that covers IT provision, training and management for schools in Dudley in the West Midlands.