- Building Schools for the Future
Building Schools for the Future (BSF) is the name of the UK Government's investment programme in
secondary schoolbuildings in England. The program is very ambitious in its costs, timescales and objectives, with politicians from all parties supportive of the principle but questioning the wisdom and cost effectiveness of the scheme. [As well as difficult Parliamentary questions from opposing parties, a critical report was produced by the Education and Skills Select Committee which has a Labour majority with minority Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat participation] The delivery of the BSF programme will be overseen by Partnerships for Schools (PfS), a non departmental public body formed through a joint venture between the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (formerly the Department for Education and Skills), Partnerships UK and private sectorpartners. Fourteen Local Education Authorities were asked to take part in the Government's first wave of the Building Schools for the Future programme for the fiscal year2005/6. [http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page5801.asp Building Schools for the Future - Government factsheet] ] There are now 80 LAs in the programme.
In 2007 the programme was complemented by the announcement of a BSF Primary Capital Programme, with £1.9 billion to spend on 675 building projects for primary in England over three years. [http://www.dfes.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2007_0185 £21.9 bn to transform classroom and school facilities] Department for Children, Schools and Families,
10 October 2007]
The project had historically been dogged by sporadic or no management at the top, with Richard Bowker (Chair and Chief Executive of the Strategic Rail Authority) abandoning his post just eight months into the role. However, Bowker was replaced in November 2006 by
Tim Byles, who joined from Norfolk County Council, where he had been CEO for 10 years. Byles continues to lead PfS, almost two years later.
Funding and Budgets
Primary schools were initially not included in BSF, although in March 2006 it was announced that a parallel programme - the Primary Capital Programme (PCP) - would be starting for primary schools and schools for primary-age special needs pupils. Rather than allocating money by authority in waves, it is intended that there will be regional pilot schemes in 2008, leading to a broader approach whereby all authorities can apply for funding from 2009. Funding to Local Authorities will only be confirmed once they have submitted and had approved their 'Strategy for Change' (SfC) that describes how they will address the PCP priorities.
Thus 23 local authorities will initially have access to £6.5 million each in order to refurbish a primary school, before widening access to an overall budget of £1.9 billion, with the expectation of starting 675 primary school building projects over the next three years.
The programme involves the decentralisation of funds to
Local Education Partnerships(LEPs) in order to build and improve secondary school buildings, to be supplemented by private funding. With investments of over £2 billion in the first year, across an estimated 200 schools through the country, it has been claimed as the single biggest government investment programme in education for over 50 years. [http://www.rm.com/bsf/Generic.asp?cref=GP343439 RM - Building Schools for the Future] ] The then- Prime Minister Tony Blairsaid the investment "will see the entire secondary school building stock upgraded and refurbished in the greatest school renewal programme in British history." [http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page5801.asp Building Schools for the Future - Government factsheet] ]
Capital funding available for investment in school buildings has risen sharply from £683 million in 1996-97 to £3.8 billion in 2003-04; this further increases to £4.5 billion in 2004-05 and to £5.1 billion in 2005-06, £9.3 billion over 2008-11, and £8.2 billion in 2011, ultimately costing £45 billion over 15 years in 15 'waves', or groups of authorities. BSF will be about half conventional and half
Private Finance Initiativefunded. Of the £2.2 billion for BSF, £1.2 billion (55.5%) will be covered by Public Finance Initiative credits. [http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page5801.asp Building Schools for the Future - Government factsheet] ] The Government plans to spend £6.3 billion on schools in 2007-08, a sixfold increase in real terms on the £683 million that was available in 1996-97 a decade prior. Around two-thirds of this funding will be spent on projects outside BSF. [http://www.bsf.gov.uk/bsf/funding.htm BSF Funding: The Bigger Picture BSF.gov.uk] ]
Funding associated with BSF is not just limited to construction and equipment in new schools built under its project, but also improving facilities at existing schools, such as providing schools with direct capital funding to spend on buildings and ICT. Depending on their size, primary and secondary schools are receiving £34,000 and £113,000 respectively during 2007-08 for these initiatives, which equates to around £1 billion across English schools.
Most of the major new building works are PFI-funded, which takes the construction and facilities management (but not the education provision) out of the financial control of
Local Education Authoritiesbecause the construction and facilities management of a school becomes a source of revenue for the consortia involved for up to 30 years, even if the school is no longer needed. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,,2201255,00.html Building up a surplus] Fran Abrams, The Guardian, 30 October 2007] While promoted as a huge investment in public services within Secondary Education, it may in fact be the reverse, by allowing a consortium made up of a financiers, construction companies and IT companies to take away control of public assets from the local authority.
This may handicap future changes, as designers currently face difficulties in trying to predict how learning environments will evolve, exacerbated by poor levels of participation by governors, teachers, pupils, and the community in the design process. The scale of the building programme is far larger than the capacity of the current pool of experienced architects and designers, while the educators running the developments have very little prior experience of commissioning such major construction works before. There is little sharing of best practice and learning between authorities, schools, contractors, suppliers and others involved in BSF, and timescales that discourage thorough up-front planning. [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmeduski/140/140.pdf Sustainable Schools] House of Commons Education and Skills Committee 16 July 2007] [ [http://www.teachers.tv/video/3390 Teachers TV programming] ] The funds provided under this programme are used for materials and building infrastructure (usually including repairs and on-going maintenance) whilst funding provided for teaching continues in the normal way, except in the case of academies where funding comes directly from the Secretary of State. A consequence of the PFI element of the programme is that recurrent and strategic maintenance of school buildings is addressed within the contract, which reverses the tendency for school governing bodies to under-allocate funds for these aspects of asset management, leading to high levels of backlog maintenance existing at many schools. Fact|date=March 2008
Bidders for funding claim that the work needed to put together a bid is onerous and very costly, and requires the navigation of many government bodies. the coordinating body, Partnerships for Schools, is reportedly focused on construction procurement without a full understanding of all the other factors involved.
There have been accusations that the relationship between the quality of infrastructure and the quality of pupil education has not been clearly demonstrated; many of the schools at the top of the league tables are ancient schools with mostly ancient buildings. The House of Commons Select Committee has expressed concerns that, whilst this investment in spaces to support learning is unprecedented, the enormous scale of the project is not being managed to ensure that its scope and aims remain appropriate. There have been no clear or consistent objectives set down to judge how well the project is progressing, or to establish if this is the best way to spend £45 billion on education. 800 schools most in need had already been prioritised and refurbished in the years immediately before this programme started; it was unclear what the current need is, and how the money previously spent would fit in with the broad untargetted approach of BSF.
The selection of some schools for demolition and rebuilding has been controversial; notably there have been criticisms in the architectural press over the demolition of the brutalist
Pimlico School, with many calls for the building to be protected by being placed on the register of listed buildings. [http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=725&storycode=3108141 Pimlico school's demolition begins] Building Design 5 March, 2008] The designs of 10 of the fist 11 schools, including Pimlico, have been granted planning permission even though they have been described by CABE as 'mediocre' or 'not yet good enough'. [http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=426&storycode=3107628 BSF schools approved despite Cabe criticisms] Building Design 29 February 2008] They noted that it has been possible to be selected for a PFI scheme without a high quality design. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1811822,00.html Half of rebuilt schools 'architecturally substandard' Katherine Demopoulos] The Guardian, 3 July 2006]
The upgrade programme is taking place at a time when building standards are being substantially rewritten to incorporate improved energy efficiency and green construction methods. Schools are claimed to emit about 15% of the
public sector's carbon footprintin the UK. New schools and refurbishment projects are required to perform an assessment in accordance with the Building Research Establishment's BREEAM Schools standard that checks against environmental performance targets for new and refurbished school buildings. [ [http://www.breeam.org/page.jsp?id=20 BRE BREEAM Schools] ] However there are concerns that commercial imperatives will mean that there are no incentives to exceed these standards, and the subsequent works are mainly being designed against the cheaper but less energy-efficient old building standards, with very little cash being set aside to meet pending standards. [ [http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/construction_and_property/article1976889.ece Schools rebuild project ‘ignores green initiative’] The Sunday Times, 24 June 2007]
New schools and major upgrades provided
The BSF programme has provided funding for the construction of entirely new schools and colleges, as well as rebuilding existing ones:
• Forest Oak and Merstone Schools, Solihull. Opened May 2006
• Horsley Hill Community Campus, South Tyneside. Opened October 2006
• Bristol Brunel Academy, Bristol. Opened September 2007.
• Elmgreen School, Lambeth. Opened September 2007.
• Haringey Sixth Form Centre, Haringey. Opened September 2007.
• Sandon High School in Stoke-on-Trent. Opened in February 2008.
• The Michael Tippett School. Opened in February 2008.
• Bristol Metropolitan College. Opened in April 2008.
• Melland (Part of Gorton Education Village), Manchester. Opened September 2008.
• Ceder Mount (Part of Gorton Education Village), Manchester. Opened September 2008.
• Allerton High, Leeds. Opened September 2008.
• Pudsey Grangefield, Leeds. Opened September 2008.
• Rodillion, Leeds. Opened September 2008.
• Lanchester, Solihull. Opened September 2008.
• Buttershaw School, Bradford. Opened September 2008.
• Titus Salt School, Bradford. Opened September 2008.
• Tong School, Bradford. Opened September 2008.
• Brislington Enterprise College, Lancashire. Opened September 2008.
• Burnley Campus, Lancashire. Opened September 2008.
• Pendle Vale College, Lancashire. Opened September 2008.
• Pendle Community High School, Lancashire. Opened September 2008.
• Shuttleworth College, Lancashire. Opened September 2008.
• Walbottle Campus Technology College, Newcastle. Opened September 2008.
• Walkergate (primary school delivered through BSF LEP), Newcastle. Opened September 2008.
• Stocksfield (primary school delivered through BSF LEP), Newcastle. Opened September 2008.
• Frederick Bremer, Waltham Forest. Opened September 2008.
• All Saints College, Newcastle. Opened September 2006.
• Chaucer Business and Enterprise College, Sheffield. Opened October 2006.
• Oxclose Community School, Sunderland. Opened June 2007.
• Birches Head, Stoke-on-Trent. Opened November 2007.
• Ifield in Kent. Opened March 2008.
• Benfield, Newcastle. Opened September 2008.
• St Pauls, Manchester. Opened September 2008.
• Newell Green High School, Manchester. Opened September 2008.
• Temple Moor High School, Manchester. Opened September 2008.
• Kelmscott, Waltham Forest. Opened September 2008.
Education in the United Kingdom
Notes and References
* [http://www.p4s.org.uk Partnerships for Schools]
* [http://www.myspace.com/lancsbsf Lancashire BSF Myspace]
* [http://www.bsf.sandwell.gov.uk Sandwell BSF]
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