CABE has been called in to rescue the government's sinking Building Schools for the Future programme.
The move has been sanctioned by the Department for Education and Skills in the hope it will ensure that every new or refurbished secondary school 'benefits from the highest-quality design'.
The quango will even receive £2 million in additional funding to help with the scheme, enabling it to establish a new schools design-assessment panel.
CABE will also be involved in providing expert support and advice to local authorities leading up to the assessment.
The new panel will consider the designs from every construction team bidding to build or refurbish the schools, as the private-sector partner of local authorities.
Schools minister Jim Knight said: 'CABE's increased involvement in the design and evaluation process should ensure consistently high quality in all projects. Local authorities can be confident that they will get excellent designs for their new secondary schools.'
The decision follows the damning admission by Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnership for Schools, that local authorities were incapable of dealing with projects of such magnitude.
Byles said: 'I'm not here to say everything was right at the beginning. The plans were over-ambitious and not deliverable. We rightly started with the areas of greatest need and it is now clear they are also most challenging.'by Richard Vaughan