11 June 2009 | Jake Kanter
Poor planning and "persistent over-optimism" has held back the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project, a group of MPs has said.
The BSF aims to upgrade or replace all secondary schools, with the construction of 250 new schools a year from 2011 onwards.
But the latest Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report - issued today - said there was "widespread disappointment" at the number of schools that had been completed under the scheme.
The report said this has damaged confidence in the Department for Children, Schools and Families' (DCSF) ability to complete the project by 2023. It added Partnerships for Schools (PfS) - the organisation responsible for delivering the BSF project - and the DCSF appeared "complacent" about the task.
The PAC said the number of schools currently in procurement would need to be doubled to complete the BSF project on time. And it claimed the DCSF had wasted money relying on consultants to make up for skills shortages.
A DCSF spokesman said the PAC's recommendations would be considered carefully, but added the report did not reference the "rapid progress" made this year. He said the number of new and refurbished schools had doubled in the past six months.
Earlier this year, a National Audit Office report found only 42 schools had been built by December 2008, far short of the 200 target (Web news, 17 February 2009).
The BSF's procurement expertise has been repeatedly criticised despite efforts to overhaul its purchasing processes last year. In January think-tank the New Local Government Network said many authorities were not capable of managing the "competitive dialogue" process, and it asked for more support and training (Web news, 22 January 2009).
The PAC called on the DCSF and PfS to set out a detailed plan to increase the pace of delivery.