76% of construction professionals doubt coherent school building programme will be in place next year

The vast majority of construction firms do not believe the government will have a coherent school building programme in place next year, exclusive research for Building has revealed.

The survey, carried out for Building’s forthcoming white paper on education, showed that 76% of construction professionals doubt the government will have put a programme in place
in time for the next round of funding allocations to schools and local authorities in 2012-13.

We’re massively concerned. Some of these structures have been there since I was at school

Rocky Gill, Barking council

The figures come a week after the government issued its response to the James Review into future school building work, in which it accepted recommendations, including the introduction of standardised designs, but put key questions about procurement back out to consultation.

Out of 188 construction professionals surveyed, 72% were “pessimistic” about the government putting a successful programme in place. Four per cent did not believe this was possible, while 24% said they were “reasonably confident”.

No respondents said they were totally confident. Meanwhile, 73% of firms rated the government’s success in communicating the future of the school building programme as “poor” or “extremely poor”.

The fear of further delay in establishing a coherent building programme comes amid mounting concern about the condition of the school estate. Fifty per cent of local authority respondents to Building’s white paper research said theirs was “unsatisfactory”, with around half of schools needing refurbishment or renewal, while a further 38% said that their estate condition was “very poor”, with more than two-thirds in need of work.

Councillor Rocky Gill, of Barking and Dagenham council, which had its £270m Building Schools for the Future programme stopped by the government last year, said that 22% of its secondary school estate was currently housed in temporary buildings. The council is also facing intense pressure to increase school places as a result of a 58% increase in birth rate over the last 10 years.

Gill said: “We’re massively concerned about place shortages, and modernisation is also a major priority. Some of these temporary structures have been there since I was at school.”
Carole Pullin, capital strategy programme manager at Coventry council, said: “It’s the uncertainty which is the problem now. We have a tremendous backlog of old buildings from the fifties in desperate need of replacement. One of our secondary blocks has been in scaffolding for four years.”

Inside the White Paper: results and analysis

Detailed results and analysis of this survey of more than 250 education clients and construction professionals are published in Building’s Education White Paper. These include:

  • The outturn costs construction firms are targeting for secondary and primary schools
  • The ways construction firms are making savings on schemes
  • Clients’ priorities for their school estate
  • Clients’ attitudes towards standardised school designs

To order your copy, visit www.building.co.uk/whitepapers