Doubts and "major risks" have still been identified in a Department for Education programme which is rebuilding or refurbishing hundreds of schools across the country.
Confidence in the delivery of the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme is still rated as “amber/red” by the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) a year after Tes last reported concerns over the programme.
The programme is supposed to tackle problems with school buildings "in the very worst condition", yet the IPA rating means “urgent action is needed to address...problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible".
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Two years ago, confidence in the programme's delivery was rated as "amber", while last July Tes revealed how problems such as lack of interest from builders had resulted in delays as well as “expenditure slipping backwards and an increase in the overall cost to deliver the programme”.
A major projects document has been published today by the DfE which says a new delivery forecast has been approved and that “factors in additional slippage that may occur as a result of complex schemes”.
The document states: “The baseline/forecast dates have been developed to reflect more realistic timescales, improving our ability to model future projections with greater accuracy. We have agreed short- and long-term actions to further improve management processes and forecasting arrangements. This work is ongoing.”
The second phase of the programme – which was introduced by the coalition government in 2011 after Michael Gove controversially scrapped Building Schools for the Future – involves rebuilding or refurbishing individual blocks of accommodation at 277 schools using capital grant and are scheduled to hand over by the end of 2023.
An amber/red rating is defined by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) as being where “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible”.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “As outlined in the DfE Major Projects document, we have great confidence that we will achieve overall target completion. We have agreed short and long term actions to further improve management processes and forecasting arrangements and this work is ongoing.”