Schools agency boss says says it is looking for sites to build ‘effective and brilliant schools’

The boss of LocatED, the government-owned company charged with acquiring 100-plus sites to accommodate free schools, has called on construction firms to help submit suitable sites for it to purchase.

The government formally launched LocatED in March to help secure free school sites, as part of the Conservatives’ push to deliver 500 new free schools across England by 2020.

Lara Newman, chief executive of LocatED, told Building it was looking to construction firms to play their part. She said: “[The firms] can submit sites that meet our requirements. We are looking to build really effective and brilliant schools […] These can be unusual buildings, we’ll look at office conversions, brownfield, greenfield”.

Newman said in the vast majority of cases LocatED’s involvement would be limited to acquiring sites and immediately transferring them back to the Education and Skills Funding Agency and relevant free school trust to oversee construction work.

But she said where land costs are high – potentially in around “10 in 100 cases” – LocatED would retain ownership and oversee development of a mixed-use scheme, typically involving housing units, to enable delivery of a free school more economically.

She added: “I want the market to know we are open for business and we can act very quickly.”

Newman was speaking to Building ahead of Theresa May calling the snap general election for 9 June.

Last week, the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee accused the government of wasting money on delivering free schools at the expense of maintaining existing schools.