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Regional schools frameworks mooted

Contractors are expecting an expanded Partnerships for Schools to procure schools projects through a number of regional frameworks as the James Review findings become adopted.

The government-commissioned taskforce led by DSG International group operations director Sebastian James last week published its final report on a new schools capital system.

It called for local authorities to be given more say on which schools projects were prioritised in their areas. But it also said a central body should be given the task of procuring most schools work and - critically - making sure it is delivered to time, quality and budget.

Several sources told CN they expected PfS to take on the central role, albeit in an amended form. It is thought the body may become part of the Department for Education, and is likely to expand its team of project managers to cope with the increased responsibility for the success of projects.

One source said: “The people with the skill set needed to perform this job are at PfS. They know they will be needed under the new system.”

Another added: “PfS certainly should carry on with its role, but it will need to be resourced effectively for the new demands on it.”

Much of the thinking outlined in the James Review is being tested on a pilot project in Doncaster. After winning a quickfire procurement contest through the academies framework, Wates is rebuilding Campsmount Technology College to a strict timeframe and budget.

Wates head of education Steve Beechey told CN: “PfS provided strong project management on Campsmount. I would expect it to expand its team of PMs if it is given the central role.”

He added that procurement for the pilot project was kept very quick by using a framework to remove the need for pre-qualification, and getting down to two bidders very quickly.

Sources said they expected the two academies frameworks to be replaced with at least four regional agreements once their £4 billion limit had been reached. This would allow the government to balance its desire for cost-effective procurement with its policy of providing accessibility to state work for small firms.

The James Review said use of standard designs and speedy procurement would allow up to 30 per cent to be slashed from the cost of schools jobs.

It called for a capital allocation system based on the need for pupil places and the condition of the local estate. Local investment plans should be drawn up by councils in conjunction with bodies such as academy trusts to inform spending decisions.

New buildings should be based on a clear set of standardised drawings and specifications, it added, confirming months of industry speculation.

UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe told CN: “Contractors will be pretty pleased with the report.
“If our members were asked to draw up a shopping list of how to make the savings required, this report is pretty much what it would look like.”

Education secretary Michael Gove is expected to respond to the report within the next few weeks.

 

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