Proposals to slash school building costs by 30%

Aaron Morby 12 years ago

The long overdue James Review has set out ambitious proposals to slash nearly a third from school building and maintenance costs in England.

In his report for the Government, Sebastian James of high street chain Dixons dismisses the current programme as flawed and hugely bureaucratic.

His review calls for a complete overhaul of education procurement to wrestle big savings from using new national building and maintenance frameworks and standardised design.

In a letter presenting his findings to Education Secretary Michael Gove, he said: “Through a more standardised approach to design and an expert, centralised approach to the procurement and delivery of major projects, greater quality and value for money can be achieved.

“Sharper accountabilities for maintaining buildings and better procurement routes for doing so will help ensure that the current estate is able to deliver for our children in the decades ahead.”

The Review found the current approaches to be flawed and said substantial savings in both time and money were possible while also improving the quality of the finished product.

“The consensus estimate from the workshops is that a cost saving of 30% could be achieved,” he said.

In a move that collides with the localism agenda, a new central body will run a national framework to procure directly all school building projects across the country above a certain size.

According to a recent survey of councils at least £15bn is needed over the next four years to ensure every child is taught in a classroom which is safe and structurally sound.

James Review in brief

  • Establish national frameworks for new building and minor repairs.
  • Prioritise maintenance to clear £8bn backlog in a single framework
  • Adopt standardised design, continuously improved with project data
  • Consolidate multitude of funding routes into single area budgets
  • Rolling yearly survey to assess condition of school estate
  • Reduce bureaucracy and prescription surrounding BREEAM assessments

James warned that putting his recommendations into practice would be a major challenge.

“I know that I am asking for a significant change in culture and practice. Getting the right structures in place to deliver at national and local level will be vital.

“I anticipate that, for some stakeholders in the process, there will be parts of my suggested approach that may be less palatable than others and that there will need to be some give-and-take”

The government will now respond to the review’s recommendations, which is expected to take around a month.

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