After a long wait, we finally have the Independent Review of Education Capital – the James Review – which sets out the 16 recommendations for the reform of the way schools are procured, designed and built. Probably the biggest headline grabbing elements are:
- the much aired challenges, problems and waste associated with the Building Schools for the Future programme
- the suggestion that free schools capital budgets should be retained centrally
- that Partnerships for Schools should have an even larger remit and reach as a central body including negotiating contracts with the construction industry
There are also the issues we raised in our previous blog posts around: greater standardisation, the reduction in red tape around planning and building regulations, the use of faster procurement routes and a move away from the goals of school capital programmes being focused on ‘educational transformation’ to look instead at building condition and pupil places. He also recommends that new buildings should be based on a set of standardised design templates (referencing the kind of model used by Dixons and TESCOs) – yet will incorporate “the latest thinking on educational requirements.
The author of the report, Sebastian James, Operations Director for Dixons, says that the current system was “complex, time-consuming, expensive and opaque and that savings of up to 30% could be made by streamlining it” and that a “lack of expertise” among those procuring the buildings – often head teachers – meant there was little opportunity to lower costs or improve building methods”.
Already the review has sparked some interesting comment including Neil O’Brien, Director of Policy Exchange who in his Telegraph blog (as well as their report Building Blocks) is highly critical not only of BSF but also of the role of Partnerships for Schools.