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Author: Emma Dukes – Glenigan education expert (@ED_Glenigan)
The Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) is a government initiative set up to address the needs of the schools requiring urgent repair. Through the programme, 261 schools will be rebuilt or have their condition needs met, with the first school due to be completed this year.

Launched by the coalition in 2011, the PSBP is an almost complete reversal of Labour's ambitious 2003 policy of rebuilding every English secondary school over 15 years. The divisive Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme came amid soaring public spending on education, which rose from £35 billion a year in 2000 to £64 billion by 2009, and attracted some of the world's best architects and contractors.Newsletter_PSBP_Mar-14
In the first four years of the BSF programme, only 42 of the 200 schools that were intended to be built were completed and the budget was underestimated by about £1bn a year, according to a report by the National Audit Office.
In contrast, the PSBP message is one of austerity, with a much stronger focus on value for money and doing more with less. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, announced that every new primary and secondary school would to be built more efficiently, sustainably and cheaply in line with new baseline designs announced by the Department of Education (DoE) in October 2012, delivering a 30 per cent cost reduction and saving up to £6 million per school compared to BSF schools.
The baseline designs demonstrate the good practice which can be achieved within set cost and area perimeters.  Contractors devised blueprints costing around £1,450 per square metre compared to the £2,200 to £2,900 under the BSF. These designs most closely resemble the car part kits used by the motor industry, with schools sharing 80% of the same components and only a few unique features. While the designs certainly could not be considered iconic, they are said to be good quality buildings that are individual and meet the needs of 21st century curriculums. 
There has been rebellion from some teachers and architects over plans to simplify new school buildings after a study claimed well designed classrooms could improve pupils’ progress in lessons by as much as 25%. However others have welcomed the pared-down approach, saying that millions of pounds that could have been spent on teaching were wasted under the previous programme on unnecessary consultant fees and extravagant design statements.
The first schools designed to the new rules are due to open this summer and include the Ian Ramsey C of E Aided Comprehensive School in Stockton-on-Tees (Glenigan Project ID: 09290285) and Whitmore Park Primary School in Coventry (Glenigan Project ID: 12179781).
The PSBP contains a mixture of private finance and public capital projects. The Education Funding Agency (EfA) has chosen ten contractors, with three new arrivals, to replace the existing contractor’s framework which expired in November 2013. The framework is divided into two parts covering the north and south of England – for the full list of contractors see Glenigan Project ID 13110777
School projects funded via capital spend will be delivered by one of the contractors on the framework. Following an evaluation process the EfA will award the contract as a design and build.  The contractor will, in turn, appoint the design team, including mechanical and electrical consultants.
The remaining schools are to be funded under Private Finance 2 (PF2), the modified form of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which was outlined in the government’s Autumn Statement at the end of last year.
PF2 introduces some significant reforms to the PFI model, including a quicker and more efficient tendering process with the introduction of an 18-month procurement deadline.  To promote savings and flexibility, soft services such as cleaning and catering will be removed from the scope of the facility maintenance (FM) package and there will be increased transparency requirements.
The government hopes that PF2 will help increase interest in raising money for public projects such as schools, roads, hospitals and large-scale waste infrastructure by giving the taxpayer a share of up to 49% in new projects. PF2 is also said to address criticisms that the previous scheme did not deliver value for money in some projects and involved a slow and expensive procurement process.

But are these reforms just a smoke screen? Whether PF2 becomes a more popular choice for local authorities in future depends to a degree on whether it provides access to otherwise unavailable or scarce new funding to pay for public infrastructure projects. Will local authorities welcome HM Treasury involvement and participations in local projects? Only time will tell.
For more information about construction within the education sector, contact Emma Dukes on 01202 786717. Emma is climbing Kilimanjaro in October to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital – click here to find out more about Top Right Group’s GOSH appeal.

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