Government to push ahead with standardisation but will consult further on central procurement process

The government has launched a further three month consultation on key aspects of Sebastian James’ review into school procurement, in a move which will delay implementation of some proposed reforms to the school building programme.

Education secretary Michael Gove said today that the new consultation would focus on two key areas: the best model for allocating and prioritising funds, and on the proposals for a more centralised procurement process.

However, Gove said that he would push ahead “more quickly” with other reforms suggested by James, including:

  • Standardised designs for schools – Gove has said he wishes to develop a “suite of standardised drawings and specifications” 
  • A programme of data collection on building condition
  • Simplifying regulations around school premises, a separate consultation on which will be launched in the autumn.

Despite saying that the government “was accepting the majority” of Sebastian James’ recommendations subject to a “thorough consultation process over the coming months”, the government has stopped short of endorsing James’ proposals for a much stronger centralised procurement process, under which all but the smallest projects would be procured by a powerful central body.

In its consultation document, the department states: “There are clear potential efficiency benefits from using a more centralised approach for procurement and building project delivery, and overall we wish to move in this direction. 

“However, we do not intend to over-ride existing local or regional procurement and project delivery arrangements where they are shown to be as efficient and effective at building or improving schools to a high standard […] We want to consult on all these issues further.”

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