Government announces £6bn for schools and education building to 2018

Collaborate early with contractors to get the most from latest investment in a rising market, says Osborne’s John Craig.

Contractors are urging local authorities to bring them in early to help deliver latest £6bn investment in school and education building over the next three years announced today.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and education secretary Nicky Morgan confirmed today that £2bn will be invested in rebuilding or refurbishing buildings at 277 schools across England, under the second phase of the government’s flagship Priority School Building Programme. There are 260 schools involved the first phase of the programme, bringing the total number to receive a revamp to 537.

The government has also announced how over £4bn will be allocated between 2015 and 2018 to schools, local authorities, academy trusts, and voluntary-aided partnerships to help them improve the condition of schools across the country.

“There are efficiencies to be found when contractors are building batches of schools and education buildings,” said Osborne director of education John Craig. “Not only are there buying gains but we can look at standardisation of components to help manage costs in a rising market.”

Osborne has built 25 schools in the past couple of years and education contracting represents about half of its current turnover.

Contractors can also share experience and tips from school to school, he suggested. “We are not saying we know it all by any means, but if there are ways we can share learning that could be useful. In particular we have an understanding of how a better use of space can help hit the targets for school places – via an extension perhaps rather than a completely new building.”

Local government estimates are that schools need to provide for 900,000 new pupils – in terms of teachers, classes and building space – over the next decade.

Craig urged authorities to plan ahead so the construction industry can manage resources in a growing skills shortage.

“One of the challenges we have seen is that a lot of school projects come to the market almost at the last minute, with opening dates in September. That 18 months is long enough to procure and build,” he said. "But we can help save money if we are brought in earlier."

According to the government the PSBP is building faster and cheaper than the cancelled Schools for the future programme operated by the previous administration.

“Under the BSF it took three years for construction work to begin. This was slashed to one year for the Priority School Building Programme, with projects costing around a third less,” the government claimed.

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