Summary and implications

The long awaited “Review of Capital Education” has finally been published and, as expected, the report focuses on the bureaucracy involved in the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, summarising it as “cumbersome”, with accountability for time, cost and quality being dispersed across a raft of individual capital investment programmes.

The report, which is based on consultation with a number of parties across both the public and private sector, criticises the lack of correlation under BSF between the condition of the school and speed of investment, the variable approach adopted across individual schools in relation to on-going lifecycle and maintenance and the lack of uniformity, in both the design and procurement processes across the overall BSF programme.

As a result and as anticipated by the market for some time, the report therefore recommends wide spread reform across the entire capital investment programme, from how funds are allocated, to the delivery and on-going maintenance of the schools. It advocates the central procurement of “large-scale” projects (scope yet to be determined) with Partnerships for Schools, as the agency previously responsible for the delivery of the BSF programme, being responsible for the design and delivery of those projects. FM and ICT will remain within the local authority remit.

What is clear is the move away from iconic, “state of the art” buildings to efficient, “fit-for-purpose” educational facilities.

The document will now be considered by the decision makers with a view to drawing up the final plans for capital investment and funding – their proposals are expected to go out to consultation later this year.

What are the main recommendations?

The main recommendations have been summarised below.  

a) Capital allocation

Capital investment, on a school by school basis, should be based on objective facts and consistently applied criteria; need and condition. Notional budgets should be apportioned to each local authority area and the decision as to which schools are taken forward in order of priority, sitting with the local authority and individual schools, as the party’s best placed to make this assessment.

Following local consultation, a short form “local investment plan” should be submitted centrally for approval before a local work plan is developed.

b) Design & build

A centrally co-ordinated suite of drawings and specifications should be implemented, which can be easily applied across a wide range of projects (these can be tailored to a “reasonable degree” on a project by project basis, to reflect individual educational visions and site locations). Those standardised documents must be continuously improved through “lessons learnt” on individual projects, such information to be captured and collated centrally.  

Rather more controversially, the Report recommends that projects currently being delivered within the BSF and Academies pipeline should attempt to benefit from the findings of the review and look to pilot the reforms within their on-going schemes.  

c) Procurement strategy

The Report recommends that a central delivery body and procurement model should be put into place, whereby a pipeline of projects – to a scale yet to be determined by the sponsoring department – are procured and managed centrally with funding also retained centrally in these cases. It also backs the implementation of a simple and clear national contract for the delivery of FM and “smaller” projects at a local level and the provision of a “basic backbone of ICT infrastructure” by the sponsoring department. Responsibility for the purchase of ICT equipment should, in all cases, remain with the individual schools.