The bulk of England’s secondary schools estate is in a worse condition than it would have been had Building Schools for the Future never happened, the head of the Department for Education’s Central Capital Unit told a conference today.
Speaking at the UK Schools Buildings Procurement Summit in London this morning, Peter Livesey also defended the government’s use of PFI to deliver its £2.69 billion Priority Schools Building Programme.
He said: “Because BSF was always intended to rebuild every school, I think that conditions improvements weren’t being made because the schools were waiting.”
The result has been a degradation of the schools estate to the point where “patching up bad schools is simply not good value for money.”
Jon de Souza, director at Constructing Excellence the best practice lobby group, said it took a leap of imagination to blame school degradation on the existence of an investment programme.
He said: “Clearly a huge investment programme doesn’t fit well with a government on an austerity drive. But you can’t blame this on the existence of an investment programme. What is to blame is the absence of an investment programme.”
Mr Livesey promised that delivering the proposed 100 PSBP schools through PFI would be the most timely and cost effective method.
“The amount of public money is constrained,” he said. “Yes, we are cognizant that PFI has been criticised by the Treasury Select Committee and others. But we have learned lessons from the past.”
The “massively over-subscribed” application process for PSBP was closed on October 14, and Mr Livesey pledged to start procurement for the first batch in the second quarter of 2012. The work would be completed by the start of the school year in 2013, he said.
“In order to ensure we meet our tight deadlines, the procurement process will be highly centralised, in line with proposals in the James Review.”