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As the second batch of private finance schools to come to market through the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) enters final tender stages, hopes remain high that it will deliver on its ‘doing more for less’ promise.
The government estimates that its flagship school building programme will deliver a 30% cost reduction and savings of up to £6million per school compared with Labour’s Building Schools for the Future project, which was scrapped within weeks of the coalition coming to power.
Under the PSBP, every new primary and secondary school will be built more efficiently, sustainably and cheaply in line with new baseline designs, set out by the Department of Education in October 2012.
Glenigan’s education expert Emma Dukes welcomes increased government expenditure on beleaguered school stock, but warns of the limitations of a ‘one size fits all’ construction method.
“Conditions in some schools were so severe, urgent action was necessary to improve conditions for pupils, especially given limited amounts of capital grant funding available,” she said.
“This straightforward-talking programme does what it says on the tin and is allowing a new generation of school buildings to surface with good quality teaching spaces.
“But the programme’s efficiency needs to be improved, with more thought put into each school’s individual requirements.”  
The government claims that the PSBP offers a more disciplined approach, keeping down costs of new schools, shortening procurement times and challenging contractors to look for savings in all areas. These savings have meant that more schools will benefit from the programme.
Through the scheme, 261 schools will be rebuilt or have work done to better meet their needs, out of a total of 587 that applied. The first school is due to be completed in 2014.
Five batches, containing 46 schools, will be delivered via PF2, the government’s new approach to private finance, with the remaining schools being delivered via capital funding. 
The schools in very worst condition, and all special schools included within the programme, were the first to be taken forward using the capital grant.
Emma said: “The amount of work for construction in the education sector is set to rise, with the government steadily increasing expenditure via a more realistic school programme. 
“This will be a relief to many firms that suffered from the cancelled £55billion, over ambitious Building Schools for the Future initiative.”
She added: “If the Education Funding Agency (EFA) continues to progress batches at the rate they have been, I believe it is realistic to say that the programme will be completed by the end of 2017.  
“With Whitmore Park Primary School (project ID: 12179781), the first school to be delivered under the PSBP, on site the onus is now on the EFA to get the remaining batches of capital and privately financed schemes out to market.”
For further information about construction in the education sector, contact Emma Dukes on 0800 373 771, email emma.dukes@glenigan-old.thrv.uk or tweet @ED_Glenigan 
Do you think the PSBP will help improve school construction standards? What are your reservations about the programme? Let us know your views via our social media channels.
Emma has also discussed her views on the PSBP with Construction News - click here to read the full story.

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