Peter Stanton-Ife, director of the programme at the Department for Education and Skills, said the department must learn from previous spending programmes.
Speaking last week at the Movers and Shakers Business Breakfast in London, Stanton-Ife said: "We are trying our utmost to limit the bid costs. We have to be quite clear what we are seeking to procure before we go to the market. There are very clear lessons from previous government procurement and I don't just mean PFI."
Stanton-Ife said the department was looking at measures to ensure the success of the programme, launched by schools standards minister David Miliband last year. These include:
- Creating a central team in the department to produce standard contracts and establish best practice
- Pooling the reinsurance of the school estate and taking it in-house
- Building a central source of funding from the department for unusual or "exotic" financial deals
- Keeping the market informed of the future flow of schools deals by publishing plans for schemes for the next two to three years.
Stanton-Ife also called for closer co-operation between the public and private sectors.
He said: "We must match intelligence between local authorities and the commercial needs in the private sector. It's astonishing how little there has been. We must level that playing field."
Stanton-Ife said the focus of the programme, the designs of which were unveiled in February, would be on whole-life costing.
The first school is expected to be built by September 2006.