Schools project lagging behind

16 November 2006
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16 November 2006 | Helen Gilbert

Procurement delays have caused the £45 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to risk missing targets, an annual report by the Construction Products Association (CPA) has found.

The BSF programme aims to rebuild and revamp 3,500 schools in England by 2020, and under the first wave, 350 secondary schools should be completed by 2008.

According to the Achievable Targets. Is Government Delivering? report, released by the CPA this month, 39 local authorities had identified projects covering 338 schools by July 2006. But only eight had appointed a preferred bidder and only one scheme has reached financial close.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) confirmed the figures and said a longer than expected planning and procurement process at local authority level was behind the delays.

"We will not hand over tens of millions of pounds to local authorities until we are satisfied that the capital projects planned have an outstanding business case and level of design," said a department spokesman. He added many capital projects across sectors fall behind schedule but BSF was getting back on track.

Michael Ankers, chief executive of the CPA, said a clear programme for delivering targets with 'interim milestones' should be set out. This would ensure programmes are delivered efficiently and on time. The report also called for the DfES to collect and publish information on the number of schools that have been built, rebuilt or remodelled outside the central government programmes.

The news comes less than a month after Tim Byles, the government's former national procurement champion, took up the role as chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, which manages the BSF programme. He described the challenge of the BSF project as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform education".


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