Agency in charge of Building Schools for the Future is overhauled as Blair faces critics over education proposals
The head of Partnerships for Schools, the government's delivery body for its £2.2bn Building Schools for the Future programme, has shaken up the organisation and removed two key directors.
Richard Bowker, who joined PfS in the autumn after a high-profile stint at the Strategic Rail Authority, has reorganised the agency to ensure that its management structure can deliver the programme of rebuilding or refurbishing every secondary school within 15 years.
Bowker has merged three posts into two - the finance, operations and education directorships have been replaced by transactions and finance, and education and planning.
Education director Brenda Bignold and operations director Paul Higgins are leaving, and finance director Andrew Robertson will become head of an enlarged transactions and finance division.
Adverts for the education and planning role will be published in the next few weeks.
A spokesperson for PfS said the agency was now properly set up to run the BSF delivery process.
She said: "We have carried out a restructuring process to align our internal operational and management structure with BSF's two-stage delivery process.
"PfS will shortly be launching an external selection process to appoint an education and planning director," she added.
Bowker's rethink comes in the month that Tony Blair's plans to reform the schools system are due to be voted on in parliament. Blair wants to give all schools the chance to secure trust status, making them more like city academies.
We have carried out a restructure to align internal structures with delivery
Partnership for Schools
This will radically change education funding as schools will get money direct from central government rather than through local authorities.
However, this week Blair was forced to water down his reforms to prevent a backbench rebellion over his education bill, which is to be published next week. As part of a compromise package the government has offered to allow local authorities to build and run comprehensive schools.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the reforms the industry is confident that the BSF structure, which involves a public-private partnership between a private consortium and a local education partnership, will survive.
One insider said: "On the face of it, the bill changes the situation for the industry because you go from having local education authority clients to far more individual school clients. But we have been told that the system afterwards would be not be dissimilar."
Consortiums will be able to combine bidding for BSF and city academies after a review by Lord Adonis, the education minister.
He recently told Building that he was looking at ways to integrate the procurement of city academies, which are financed by £2m of initial funding from a private sponsor.
The changes were treated with surprise by the industry. One source said: "I don't understand why Bignold and Higgins have been allowed to leave. They were very competent at their jobs. It seems very strange."
Bignold, who has a teaching background, was deputy chief education officer at Birmingham council before becoming an independent consultant. His main work was to conducting strategic reviews for local education authorities and supporting BSF planning.
Higgins worked as head of the PFI/PPP department within Kent council, including projects in the Thames Gateway.