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Heavyweights line up for £8bn ESFA framework

A raft of big names have been shortlisted for slots on the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s flagship £8bn National Construction Framework, Construction News understands.

Galliford Try, Graham, ISG, Kier, Morgan Sindall, Robertson, Wates and Willmott Dixon are believed to be among the contractors set to battle for places on the framework.

A total of 121 contractors could be appointed to the education framework.

Successful contractors will deliver works through the ESFA’s Priority School Building Programme as well as free schools, academies and university technical colleges.

After a series of delays to the procurement of the framework, bidders were notified last week whether they had got through to the next stage.

In May 2016 the client body set out its plans to find contractors for “at least 30 places” on the multi-lot framework, at that point worth an estimated £6bn.

After a prior information notice was issued in May 2016, a bidders day was held in early March this year and the official launch of the procurement process was expected imminently.

Construction News revealed at the time that the value of this framework had been bumped up to £8bn.

However, contractors were kept waiting until early April to see details of the contract notice, which revealed that up to 121 firms could ultimately win places on the agreement. 

Firms were expecting to hear back by 15 June whether they had been shortlisted to tender for the framework. However, this was pushed back by a further two weeks.

It is understood smaller contractors are being encouraged to bid for places on the framework to deliver projects such as primary schools.

The DfE has previously come under fire for the way it has managed its capital funding.

In February, the National Audit Office revealed that since 2015, the department’s free schools programme had spiralled in cost and under-delivered on schools.

The report said the DfE paid an average of 19 per cent more than official land valuations for free school sites, with 20 sites costing 60 per cent more.

The NAO claimed the DfE recognised skills shortages “limited its ability to secure sites quickly and at the best market price”.

A DfE spokesperson said in February: “We have made more school places available, and in the best schools.

“The free school programme is a vital part of this – more than three-quarters of free schools have been approved in areas where there is already demand for new places and the vast majority of those inspected are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.”

The DfE this week declined to comment on the contractors shortlisted for framework places. A full list is expected to be announced in due course.

According to the contract notice issued earlier this year, the framework has 22 lots in total: two for high-value work, eight mid-value and 12 low-value.

Tenders can be submitted for all lots and expressions of interest were accepted from consortiums.

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