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Cautious welcome for £2bn priority school cash injection

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Architects have cautiously welcomed the extra £2billion government funding being ploughed into the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP)

From 2015, rundown schools across England will be able to bid for the new £2billion funding which will finance a second phase of the PSBP.

The money comes two years after education secretary Michael Gove handed £2.4billion to repair and maintain 261 educational buildings most in need of urgent renovation.

The new wave of cash will be funded by the taxpayer rather than the PF2, private finance initiative, which was used to finance the first batch of school repairs (AJ 24.05.12).

Mairi Johnson, AECOM’s global lead for the education sector, said: ‘Many schools didn’t apply for the last round of the Priority School Building programme because it was initially advertised as being all funded by PFI.

‘The second round of the programme will be all design and build, which is much more attractive to schools, and therefore it is likely to be very oversubscribed.’

The architect, who was the strategic director of design at Partnerships for Schools, added: ‘The release of the funds will take a more forensic approach than before, allowing repairs to be done block by block and not only as complete school rebuilds. This will mean that the money reaches a greater number of schools but the impact may not be so noticeable.’

The latest investment has been drawn from the Department for Education’s £21billion capital allocation for 2015 – 2021 - awarded in last year’s spending review.

Schools minister David Laws said design work had begun at 234 schools, 28 schools were under construction, while Whitmore Park in Coventry today became the first school to have its new building opened under the PSBP.

The minister also confirmed a detailed schools condition survey would be completed by the summer.

Rob Howard, director of architecture and an expert in school design at architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan said the‘condition survey’ should take account of the ‘suitability of the spaces for modern teaching and not just the condition of the building fabric.’

‘We also urge that the practicality of piecemeal renewal and how the resulting school will work as a whole should be considered in the prioritisation of projects,’ Howard said.

‘The statistics in the Government’s announcement are telling and with over 10,100 primary and secondary community schools in England as of January 2013, even accounting for the improvements already made, £2 billion will not go very far.”

Johnson added: ‘Now that the first phase of PBSP schools are opening, the Department for Education has benchmarks for price and for design.

For designers and contractors alike, absolute efficiency will be required and no ‘fat’ will be allowed in terms of size, performance and materials. Therefore, only what’s been proven to work and add value should be proposed.’


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