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Building blocks

SCEPTICS of the Government's commitment to the use of private capital to replenish the school estate would have had food for thought at last week's Edinburgh seminar, which brought together education and construction interests (page four). That in itself was a minor triumph and it is one of the huge potential benefits of public private partnerships that it provides scope for dialogue between very disparate, and historically very separate, professions.

It remains the case that, despite the reservations about private capital rescuing the public services for company profit, educational requirements remain in the driving seat. As Alan Blackie, president of the Association of Directors of Education, made clear from the experience of his East Lothian scheme, PPP is - or ought to be - about education.

There are signs of progress. The Executive has addressed union staff grievances. And there is now a national standard PPP contract for schools. The remaining issue is how value for money stacks up and here, too, there is action: the Executive is to help market test Argyll and Bute's alternative non-profit approach next year. For once, ministers deserve congratulations.

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