Revised timetable will tie £45bn school building programme in with wider regeneration projects

The government’s £45bn school building programme is to be overhauled to tie it more closely with regeneration projects, under proposals put forward this week.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said it intended to issue a revised timetable for the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme early next year. A consultation document published on Wednesday proposes criteria to determine which schools should be prioritised from 2009.

These include:

• Schools that can be located on the same site as other community facilities, including healthcare

• Schools in areas of sustainable development

• Schools in areas of major social regeneration.

The consultation could allow councils to join BSF when they are ready to do so rather than in “waves” made up of a number of authorities at a time. This means that councils could enter the programme earlier than was previously possible, which may mean more work for contractors.

The proposals are designed to forge a tighter link between the government’s Children’s Plan and its school building programme. They come after BSF came in for heavy criticism for slow delivery, with only 12 out of 100 projects originally scheduled completed by the end of the tax year.

The government’s schools delivery body, Partnerships for Schools (PfS), has already carried out numerous consultations on how to improve delivery, but this is the first time the DCSF has stepped in.

Ty Goddard, director of the British Council for School Environments, said: “It’s very significant that the department is doing this. This is evidence of people listening to industry.”

Tim Byles, chief executive of PfS, said: “At this halfway stage it is right to consider whether there are additional criteria that should be taken account of.”