Move to scrap green standards for schools driven by the free schools agenda, public procurement chief says

Michael Gove’s move to scrap green schools standards is being driven by his free schools agenda, the head of a council-backed procurement body has said.

Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape, a local authority-backed building procurement body, said the education secretary had an “ulterior motive” in scrapping the BREEAM regulations for new school buildings, and was proposing the move to help pave the way for the free schools agenda.

Robinson said: “The whole premise behind a free school is that it can be provided in any building and set out in any way without restriction. So by scrapping BREEAM targets for schools, he’s solving the problem of free schools having to comply with certain standards.

“In our view, this is a slow, calculated erosion of best practice, which undermines the efforts of both industry and the public sector in striving to reduce school running costs while creating an improved learning environment.”

Robinson’s intervention follows a series of letters from leading figures in the construction industry protesting against the proposed move to scrap BREEAM standards for schools.

Last week Scape announced that its joint-venture partner Willmott Dixon would start work thismonth on its first off-the-shelf school in Warwickshire after receiving approval from the county council.

The construction firm, in partnership with Scape, launched its Sunesis range of standardised schools last April. These provide a series of design outlines that don’t change from site to site, though there are some customisable features, offering cost certainty to clients.

Robinson said the Sunesis schools showed that “going green doesn’t have to break the bank”.

“We deliver standard whole building designs at a fixed price. For schools this means quicker procurement and delivery, reduced costs of up to 30% and sustainable solutions being integrated into the fabric of a new facility.

“That’s the message we want to convey to government. There are innovative solutions out there that will meet the needs of strategic policy makers and local delivery partners, while ensuring a better educational experience for all concerned.”

A DfE spokesman said the department was currently reviewing the BREEAM regulations and an announcement would be made shortly.