Merging of frameworks likely to scupper prime minister’s plan to build 400 academies by 2010

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is likely to miss Tony Blair’s target of delivering 400 academies by 2010, owing to an overhaul of its procurement framework.

The DfES is in the process of merging two project management roles in a move that some in the construction industry say will almost double the amount of time needed to appoint a contractor.

One source bidding for a framework deal said it would increase the appointment period from 48 weeks to 90, which would make Blair’s latest target, which he recently doubled from 200, unachievable.

The two roles to be merged are the overall project manager and construction project manager. The DfES has told bidders that it will appoint 10 firms to the unified framework, which would mean cutting suppliers by about half.

Turner & Townsend, EC Harris, Tribal Group, Capita Symonds and Buro Four are thought to be among the bidders for the revised framework.

The cause of the delay is that the DfES is removing the sponsors from the initial stages, and bringing them in at a later stage.

One industry source argued that Blair’s stated target could in part be achieved by including schools that were refurbished and by turning “fresh start” schools into academies. These are failing schools that are closed one term and reopened the next with minor refurbishments and a new head in place. The DfES declined to comment.

• Design for London, the capital’s new architecture and urbanism unit, was formally launched this week. Its remit includes: reviewing the design of major developments. It will be lead by Peter Bishop, former director of culture at Camden council.