Leaked government papers reveal substantial cost hikes, and the most expensive project passes £46m

Leaked government documents obtained by Building have revealed that 16 city academies have exceeded their original budgets.

The papers are cost reports prepared for the Department for Education and Skills, and they reveal big discrepancies between the costings at RIBA stage E, when cost certainty should be established, and the academies' current costs.

The increases reflect the addition of costs other than construction, such as professional fees, computers and the price of decanting pupils in and out of temporary classrooms.

Costs at Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham have risen £6.5m

Costs at Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham have risen £6.5m

Among the biggest cost hikes are:

  • Stockley Academy in Hillingdon, west London, which went from £21.3m to £26.2m
  • Nottingham's Djanogly Academy went from £16.9 to £23.4m
  • Lings Academy, Northamptonshire, went from £22.2m to £27m.
The combined extra cost is £40m, whereas only £16.1m has been saved by cutting costs at other academies. That figure includes an £8.5m cut at the Corby Academy in Northamptonshire between RIBA stage E and the current cost.

The government has said the average cost of an academy is £25m but some of the 72 finished or in the pipeline cost substantially more. The Haberdashers' Malory Academy in Lewisham, south-east London, for example, has risen from £33.6m to £40.4m.

The documents also reveal that the Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough, an extra-large school for 2200 pupils, is to become the most expensive academy, at £46.4m.

The DfES told Building that the average cost of an urban city academy was between £25m and £30m, and some non-academy schools were costing up to £35m.

The news comes as the government's other key school programme, Building Schools for the Future, met fresh difficulties. Building understands that Bristol, the first project in the programme to reach preferred bidder status, has hit problems after design changes.

A spokesperson for Skanska, the preferred bidder, said: "Like on all of our schemes, we have been developing the designs on Bristol with all the stakeholders."