Better buildings

5th January 2007 at 00:00
Paul Foster Head of education and local government at EC Harris, London

The decision by Tony Blair's delivery unit to investigate the Building Schools for the Future programme is welcome ("School Building Chaos", TES, December 15), for without change to its current form the programme is unlikely to succeed.

We must not lose sight of BSF's original purpose: to transform the learning environment and raise educational standards. BSF is not all about delivering shiny new buildings quickly. Rather, its success will be strategic, not tactical - facilitating leadership, changing thinking, boosting standards. Many of the delays are due to local education authorities not being experienced in delivering investment programmes on this scale. Everyone involved would benefit from a smoother flow of schemes to ensure sufficient capacity within LEAs and providers.

The relationship between public and private-sector partners must change so that quality and value, not cost, drive the procurement process to support BSF. There is a wealth of experience in the private sector and it should be used more when there are gaps. This will benefit local authorities and, crucially, teachers and pupils.

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