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Consultation could trigger BSF work boom

Councils from across England look set to be given the green light to start their Building Schools for the Future projects years ahead of schedule under proposals outlined today.

The Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has today published a consultation document looking at whether to let councils in the later waves of the 15-year £45 billion programme get started on some of their projects as soon as they can show that they are ready to deliver - rather than waiting until their wave gets the green light.

The Government with the Building Schools for the Future programme aims to modernise every secondary school in England.

Under the DCSF proposals late wave authorities would be allowed to package up between five and eight schools projects valued at around £100 million.

As long as they could prove they had carried out the research and consultation required by the department as a condition of BSF funding, the authorities would be given the green light to start procuring these works immediately.

The relatively small size of such packages would mean that the current method for delivering most BSF works – the establishment of a Local Education Partnership between a contractor and the council – would not be efficient for each local authority.

To overcome this the consultation recommends the establishment of so-called 'super LEPs' - partnerships between a number of local authorities - each using the same delivery partner to rebuild their schools.

Commenting on the Department for Children, Schools and Families consultation, Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, said: “At the outset of BSF, the two key criteria determining the order in which local authorities joined the programme were, quite rightly, academic attainment and social deprivation. As a result, the areas of greatest need are now being tackled, and having reached this mid point of the programme, with around half of local authorities already engaged in BSF, it is right to consider whether there are additional criteria that should be taken account of in determining when the remaining authorities should join the programme.

“Today’s consultation is a welcome step to addressing these issues, and could allow local authorities to join BSF when they can demonstrate they are ready to do so rather than in 'waves' made up of a number of authorities at a time. This means that more local authorities could be able to join the programme earlier than was previously possible.”

The consultation runs until 4 July. Details can be found at: www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations/conDocument.cfm?consultationId=1538