A government-backed report has claimed that the design and construction of city academies remain a serious problem.

The study, by accountant Pricewaterhouse Coopers, highlighted issues with the quality and suitability of some of the buildings.

The report, based on an evaluation of 15 academies that opened in 2005, said: “There were a number of aspects of the final design of new academies that were broadly regarded as unsatisfactory and not fit for purpose. Examples include: the size of classrooms being too small in a number of academies … changing facilities inadequate or not conveniently located … unfinished or poor quality work.”

The report said most of the 15 academies visited had also experienced problems during the building process. These included:

The clients sometimes start pointing the finger at the professionals

Mark Cleverly, EC Harris

  • Lack of consultation with key stakeholders, especially staff
  • Lack of co-ordination between the Department for Education and Skills, industry, the school and the sponsor
  • Inexperienced or ineffective project managers, architects and builders.
Mark Cleverly, partner at consultant EC Harris, said that on academy projects the relationship with the client could become strained. He said: “The client sometimes feels that the architects and project managers let them down and they start pointing the finger at the professionals. Everybody underestimated how challenging the projects would be.”

A spokesperson for the DfES said processes were being put in place to learn from the mistakes of the past. She said: “Lessons from the earliest projects are provided to all architectural firms.”

To try to address these delivery problems, the construction of the £5bn city academy programme was handed to Partnerships for Schools, the delivery body for Building Schools for the Future, in March. PfS recently invited tenders for a framework to build academies, with the winners due to be announced in September.