Delays and lack of skills in local authorities beset £45bn school building programme
The government’s £45bn programme to renew every secondary school in Britain will complete only 12 by the end of this financial year, compared with an original target of 100.
So far, the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has finished only Brunel academy in Bristol and six refurbishment schemes. Five more schools are scheduled for completion by the end of March.
The 100-schools target was announced when BSF was launched in 2004. The programme plans to build or refurbish 3,500 schools by 2019.
The extent of the delay has emerged a week after Partnerships for Schools (PfS) announced a review of the design and construction process, and whether the special purpose companies set up to oversee the schools could deliver wider regeneration.
A spokesperson for PfS admitted that there had been delays and that the organisation had introduced measures to improve the process. These included assessing whether councils were ready to deliver the schemes and how they would meet expectations.
PfS said it brought in the measures after high-priority refurbishments in deprived areas were held back by councils because they did not have the skills to cope them.
She said: “There were delays in the early days, against overambitious targets. We have introduced reforms and the pace of delivery has increased. Overall, the programme will be delivered on time and to budget.”
Industry experts criticised the government for not factoring in enough time to educate local authorities on the programme.
Paul Foster, head of education at EC Harris, said: “The government comes along after 50 years of spending not much on schools and decides to spend shedloads. All of a sudden, local authorities have to procure something worth £150-200m. Does anyone think they have the capacity to deliver that?”