BSF01: Memorandum submitted by Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)

 

Introduction

 

Since the Select Committee published its report last August, Building Schools for the Future (BSF) has moved on quite considerably; both in terms of progress on delivery, and also in the evolution of the processes supporting that delivery. Good progress is also being made in taking forward the development of the primary capital programme.

 

13 BSF schools have now opened their gates to students, teachers and the local communities that they serve. This number will more than double in September, and we anticipate that by the end of the financial year, around 50 schools will have opened. That trend continues to increase until 2011 when we expect that around 200 new schools will open every year.

 

Overall, around 1,000 schools are now engaged in BSF, the Academies programme and One School Pathfinders. 72 local authorities are fully in BSF. 18 of these authorities have selected their private sector partners (covering 20 deals) and have signed deals worth around 2.5bn of capital investment that will help transform education in their local areas. Taking into account future investment in subsequent phases of BSF in these cases, this figure increases to over 3.5bn.

 

A range of support and guidance packages has been developed to help local authorities and their stakeholders prepare to hit the ground running as soon as they join BSF. Partnerships for Schools (PfS) with their partners 4ps and the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) are now helping ensure that local authorities have done the necessary preparations before entering the programme, including sufficient work on the initial visioning. As well as increasing the certainty that BSF will produce genuinely transformational learning environments, the new approach has resulted in reduction of up to 6 months in the pre-procurement timetable for delivery.

 

The procurement phase of BSF has been reviewed and, when implemented this autumn, the new process will deliver a reduction of up to 2 months in the timetable for delivery. The reforms to the procurement phase are also expected to reduce bidding costs by up to 30% - equivalent to around 250m savings across the programme. More detail on this is provided below.

 

We are pleased to inform the Committee that the responsibility for managing the contracts with 4ps, NCSL and CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) which help support the delivery of BSF has now transferred from the DCSF to PfS, positioning PfS as the single gateway delivery agent for the programme. We are currently looking at ways in which these arrangements can be streamlined further, and be more explicit about the contribution from each partner. PfS' role has also broadened out, working with local authorities prior to their joining the programme and then throughout the process and into the operational phase.

 

Stakeholder involvement in planning and appropriate preparations

 

As the Select Committee acknowledged in its report, BSF is designed to be so much more than a 'bricks and mortar' initiative. It is not about simply replacing old schools with new versions. It is about creating flexible schools that inspire and engage young people, their parents, community and teachers. The input of young people and their teachers is absolutely critical.

 

Early engagement and consultation with the whole school community is an important part of the development phase of a BSF project. When a local authority joins BSF, it must produce a 'Strategy for Change' which demonstrates how the secondary school estate can support the educational aspirations for the area. The authority also needs to demonstrate that in preparing the strategy, it has carried out proper consultation with its stakeholders and the resulting strategy has been accepted and is supported by all these groups.

 

As part of the local authority's work to produce its Strategy for Change, each school will also be required to start developing its own School Strategy for Change, showing how it will support the delivery of the objectives in light of its own needs and circumstances. The local authority must provide the appropriate support for schools to do this. Further support is available from NCSL and from the workshops on offer for students through the Sorrell Foundation. However, we recognise that more work needs to be done to explore how schools can ensure students and parents are involved in the planning process. PfS is currently producing guidance material on preparations for BSF, which will include pupil engagement and local consultation.

 

Together with the readiness to deliver assessment and the Memorandum of Understanding (which all local authorities now sign with PfS, clarifying respective roles and responsibilities), the Strategy for Change has resulted in a robust platform for local authorities to begin their BSF projects, providing greater certainty that the investment will help deliver educational transformation and a reduction in the BSF timescale.

 

Procurement process

In the autumn of 2007, PfS commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to carry out a review of the procurement phase of BSF to explore whether there are ways to make this even more efficient, with a particular focus on three aspects: the role of design, ICT integration and Local Education Partnerships.

The resulting recommendations have recently been approved by the Department and are likely to result in significantly reduced costs for bidders and a reduction in the timetable for delivery by up to 2 months.

Key changes include:

A reduction in the overall procurement time - down to 75 weeks from the current 82-week model;

More comprehensive pre-qualification of bidding consortia;

Two lead bidders selected earlier in the process, after 29 weeks rather than 44 weeks;

Time and cost savings in the design process, with sample schemes only required for two projects, and a re-focusing of time for detailed development and completion of design work;

More focus on effective partnering issues throughout the procurement process.

The new process will be implemented for authorities in Wave 5 and beyond this autumn, and will maintain and improve competition across the programme. It will also increase the certainty that individual projects will help deliver educational transformation.

Learning from Experience

 

A key responsibility for PfS is to identify and then share good practice between authorities and to highlight any pitfalls to avoid. This is being done in a number of ways:

 

Review points at key milestones for every BSF project - carried out by the PfS Project Director and shared at both a regional and national level with other Project Directors

Facilitating a range of workshops, conferences and seminars for local authorities and their stakeholders in the early engagement phase

National Learning Network - a network of local government BSF lead contacts that enables the exchange of information between local authorities, the private sector and PfS

Chief Executives Advisory Group - set up to exchange views at the most senior level between local authorities and PfS

Encouraging private sector bodies, such as the PPP Forum and the Major Contractors Group to engage with the bidding community as a group

Reviews - PfS have already carried out a review of the procurement phase of BSF and are about to embark upon a similar review of the effectiveness of Local Education Partnerships in operation.

PfS Website - recently re-launched with dedicated 'lessons learned' pages; a multi-media compendium of information about BSF; individual pages for every local authority in the country, charting their progress; and user-focused content for teachers, students, local authorities and the private sector

PfS quarterly publication, Insite - providing the latest news and updates

Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey - carried out by Ipsos MORI - identifying areas of focus for PfS

Establishing links with Teachers TV and Sec Ed to target the teaching profession directly

Independent evaluation - the Department commissioned PwC to carry out a three year evaluation of the impact of BSF on pupil achievement, including early lessons that can be applied to later projects.

4ps and CABE also provide advice and support to local authorities in order to support BSF delivery. They have an important part to play in disseminating lessons learned from early phases of the programme.

4ps

 

4ps provide advice and support for authorities to help them review and develop their procurement expertise and knowledge and prepare members and school leaders. They have an important function in ensuring that some of the lessons learned during the early waves of BSF are effectively communicated, such as: the need to commit to and adequately resource programmes; develop robust governance structures; and gain corporate understanding of the private finance aspect of the programme, including the preferred BSF procurement model (the LEP).

 

They deliver these messages through their Expert Client Programme that includes:

        training and briefings for authority staff and school leaders;

        membership of local boards; and

        facilitation of Gateway reviews and skills audits.

 

4ps are in contact with BSF authorities early in the pre-procurement process and are able to report regularly and feedback on emerging issues likely to influence the BSF programme and the Department's Capital policy.  They also provide an early indication of challenges in BSF local programmes in the pre procurement stage.

 

CABE

In terms of supporting local authorities in becoming 'good clients', CABE "Enablers" (architects with good track records) have been commissioned to provide up to 20 days advice on school design issues. CABE also holds one-day design workshops with each short-listed bidder during the design development stage, and forms a Schools Design Assessment Panel to look at bidders' proposals for sample schemes.

 

Standard specifications

 

The Department and PfS have worked with leading architects and suppliers to develop a suite of guidance publications on standard specifications, layouts and dimensions. The aim is to help disseminate best practice and avoid reinventing the wheel every time a school is designed, so that consistently high quality environments can be delivered, offering best whole life value for money - but without compromising design flair.

 

Standardised approaches will support the move towards more off-site construction, which should drive improvements in health and safety, reduce waste, and deliver quicker and more sustainable solutions. To help encourage take up, the guidance will become the standard in the BSF programme documentation and we will expect it to be adopted in the majority of situations where it is reasonable and appropriate to do so.  Whilst we would expect projects to comply with the standards, other solutions - possibly based on new products or technologies, or reflecting local factors - may equally comply with the specifications and could be used. We do not want to stifle innovation by being too prescriptive.

 

Though principally aimed at secondary school building projects delivered through the BSF Programme, the specifications and solutions may also apply to other educational buildings.

 

PFI and Capital Funding

 

The Select Committee raised concerns about the risks associated with PFI as a funding method. In BSF, PFI is generally used for building new schools or schools requiring over 70% refurbishment, where it has been proven that it offers value for money. Far more projects are built on time and cost than with traditional procurements - research suggests that 88% of PFI projects are finished on time and on budget compared to 30% of local authority run projects.

 

It is important to note the robust pupil place planning that local authorities now have to undertake under BSF. Authorities must take account of how many pupils they will have for a ten-year period to ensure that they are rebuilding schools that reflect demographic data and trends. This will help minimise any risk that BSF schools that are being rebuilt are less than fully utilised.

 

Primary schools

 

The Department is also making good progress in taking forward the development of the primary capital programme.   The 23 pathfinder authorities remain on track to deliver their exemplar projects by September 2009.  We are also working with pathfinders to develop case studies and good practice on approaches to delivering sustainable 21st century primary schools. 

 

Following a successful trial with pathfinders last summer the Department issued comprehensive guidance on arrangements for the national roll out in 2009-10.  Among other things, the guidance sets out the core information requirements, the arrangements for monitoring progress and emphasises our expectation that local authorities should adopt a suitably joined up approach to planning, procurement and funding.     

 

To access the additional funding earmarked for the national roll out all authorities will prepare and submit to the Department a Primary Strategy for Change showing how capital investment will be used to support the delivery of key national policy priorities, as set out in the Children's Plan. This is essentially a light touch version of the approach taken in relation to BSF.  The Department will assess each strategy against the core requirements set out in the guidance and notify local authorities of the outcome by the end of September. 

 

Further Education

 

The approaches towards sustainable development adopted by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the DCSF within their respective capital programmes are now better aligned. Versions of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) have now been developed for further education (BREEAM was adapted for schools in 2005), and both organisations provide additional funding for sustainable development. At the time of the Select Committee's report, the LSC allowed an additional 5% of building costs to be ring fenced and used for Sustainable Development. DCSF is now making a similar level of additional funding available to reduce carbon emissions from school buildings. Additional funding of 50/m2 is being allocated to new schools within BSF, Academies and One School Pathfinder programmes to reduce carbon emissions by 60%, and we expect local authorities to use their capital funding to meet this reduction in carbon emissions for all other new school buildings (e.g. within the Primary Capital Programme).

 

The Select Committee commented on the usefulness of the LSC checklist and encouraged its wider use. The checklist includes a number of technical considerations, all of which are addressed within Departmental guidance (Building Bulletins, etc.) and many of which are considered and incentivised within BREEAM assessments for schools.

 

Educational Transformation

 

 Our previous response confirmed that the development of a Strategy for Change in each local authority was designed to capture both the educational vision and what this will mean for the school estate. Schools are also required to develop their own individual Strategies for Change. PfS has developed and issued guidance which sets out those elements we expect to be addressed to ensure that schools can transform teaching and learning and achieve better educational standards. They are also supporting and challenging local authorities in the development of their Strategies for Change to ensure that improvement targets are included, and that it is clear how the associated key performance indicators (KPIs) will be measured.

At a national level the Children's Plan sets out a vision for all services for children and young people, and provides the context for the development of a vision of what a 21st century school should look like. Work is underway in the Department to define that vision in more detail, and to look at a wider range of performance indicators which might be used to measure progress towards that vision. PfS is also working with partner organisations in the education sector to reach a clearer understanding of the contribution that BSF can make to a 21st century education. By the end of 2008 national KPIs and targets will be established to monitor the extent to which the strategic delivery objective of educational transformation is being achieved

Local Decisions versus Government Policy

 

BSF is a national programme of investment that will help improve the life chances of millions of young people. For BSF to achieve its objective of educational transformation, national policy must reflect local needs and aspirations (and vice-versa). The Strategy for Change process is a mechanism to do this. An early remit meeting with local authorities sets out at the outset what is expected, for example, ensuring that the choice and diversity mix is appropriate to the local circumstances. Against this backdrop, innovation is encouraged and we are seeing many local authorities being very creative with their proposals for BSF, including using BSF as a centrepiece for wider regeneration or social cohesion within a local area.

 

Both BSF and the Primary Capital Programme provide local authorities and their partners with opportunities to bring together additional sources of funding to develop facilities that enable the co-location of other services on school sites.

 

As outlined in the Children's Plan, the Department is committed to "...run our capital programmes in a simple, coherent and consistent manner to help local agencies to further increase co-location". We have established a project to investigate how we can improve the management of all our capital programmes. We will be developing ideas to further simplify our processes and support to local areas to co-locate services, so we make the most of available funding, local expertise and good practice. To ensure that this work takes into account the views and needs of local authorities and their partners, we have appointed 16 local authorities as 'pilots'.

 

Developing the use of ICT

 

There is no intention to create a "one size fits all" ICT solution. The ICT specification and procurement process in BSF is deliberately designed to ensure that the purchase and provision of ICT resources and services is tailored to the needs and specialisms of individual schools. A local authority is not allowed to proceed to procurement unless its ICT Output Specification contains specific School Enhancements for each school and these are shown to be linked to the schools' aspirations as set out in their Strategy for Change. Although we are taking a more hands-off approach in relation to the Primary Capital Programme, guidance on the requirement to prepare and secure DCSF approval to a Primary Strategy for Change emphasises the need to ensure ICT supports the overall aims for teaching and learning.

 

The BSF programme challenges schools and local authorities to develop an aspirational Strategy for Change and to show how the innovative use of ICT will support this. This approach places transformation at the heart of the process, linking in ICT in a way that no other national scheme has so far been able to do. Additionally, the ICT suppliers have responded to the challenges and opportunities presented by BSF by developing and bringing to market a range of new products and services. For example, there is substantial investment in the development of "next generation" virtual learning environments - software systems designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting.

 

There is standardisation to the extent that we want to ensure that every school can offer a high-level of ICT to support teaching and learning through BSF funding - but that is certainly not saying that the solution is the same for every school.

 

Future proofing

 

The Select Committee recommends that there should be a Post Occupancy Review for every school within the BSF programme to ensure that a proper assessment can be made of what has worked well and what has caused difficulties. We can confirm that all schools in BSF are required to complete a Post Occupancy Evaluation as part of the Design Quality Indicator for Schools process. Post Occupancy Evaluation typically takes place after the building has been through a cycle of one summer and one winter and so we expect the first evaluations to take place towards the end of 2008.

 

Personalisation

The Department has commissioned a research project to gain a better understanding of how the design of schools can support personalised learning. In order to gain a practical understanding of this, several 'live' building projects will be studied.

We will develop tools, processes and advice, suitable for use by all schools. This will enable schools to look at their own practices and to translate these into building needs and solutions. A key aspect of this project is a communications strategy that enables the sector to benefit from the on-going research findings as they emerge.

Sustainability and carbon footprint

 

The Children's Plan, published in December 2007, reinforced our commitment to school buildings with high standards of sustainability and energy efficiency. The Plan announced our ambition for zero carbon new school buildings by 2016, and we have now appointed a Task Force to advise on how this goal can be met. The Task Force will develop a roadmap to zero carbon, setting targets and milestones along the way. They will focus on the technical, design and construction challenges of zero carbon school buildings, as well as cost, benefits and affordability. Whilst the initial focus will be on new school buildings, they will also consider the potential for substantially reducing carbon emissions in the even more challenging field of refurbishment projects.

 

As the Select Committee is aware, we are taking action now as we work towards the zero carbon goal by setting an immediate requirement that new school buildings will achieve a 60% carbon emissions reduction. About 235 schools in BSF, the Academies programme and One School Pathfinders will benefit from additional funding of around 113m for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures to support the delivery of this requirement. We expect local authorities to use their devolved funding to meet the same standards in other school buildings, for example those in the Primary Capital Programme. This builds on our requirement that all major school projects are subject to a BREEAM assessment and expected to achieve a minimum BREEAM Schools rating of 'very good'.

 

In terms of measuring success in reducing carbon emissions of school buildings, we have developed a simple piece of software - the 'carbon calculator'. This allows users to test combinations of technical solutions and provides initial estimates of carbon savings and capital costs. The carbon calculator requires minimal input to assess the likely carbon reduction, thereby allowing a large number of design options to be tested at an early stage in the project. Its outputs are based on a number of default assumptions to help to make some early fundamental design choices. Users can refine these assumptions as the design progresses, and more detailed information becomes available.

 

The use of the carbon calculator will be monitored during the design and procurement stages of BSF, and will be the means for ensuring that new school buildings meet the requirement to reduce carbon emissions by 60%.

 

In order to avoid unnecessary duplication, we are exploring options to monitor the actual energy used by new schools through the Department for Communities and Local Government's requirements for energy performance certificates and display energy certificates.

 

Sustainable procurement

 

In its report, the Select Committee asked for a response on whether we consider that using 30% of recycled material in construction would be cost neutral and, if so, whether we will consider raising the level required. We have discussed this with WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) who have advised that setting a high target for recycled content may preclude some options for sustainable design (e.g. it is easier to recycle concrete or steel than wood, and a high target may exclude the option of timber construction for schools, even though many aspects of timber construction are environmentally sustainable).

 

WRAP are satisfied that a minimum requirement of 10% is achievable for all construction methods. They recommend that it is retained as a minimum requirement and that any additional content will be achieved wherever viable. WRAP have drafted a clause for inclusion in the BSF standard output specification, together with a proposal that a requirement be introduced for construction teams to use WRAP's waste toolkit for school projects.

 

Management of BSF

 

In its public response to the Select Committee's report the Department set out the division of responsibilities on BSF: the Department has responsibility for the development of policy, while PfS is responsible for the strategic management and delivery of the programme, including day-to-day management of individual projects. The Department has plans to further develop PfS's management role and to streamline the delivery-side arrangements further.

 

The suite of BSF contracts with third-party support bodies has now been transferred from the DCSF to PfS, creating a single gateway for BSF. These contracts cover work carried out by 4ps, CABE and the NCSL.

 

How will we know if BSF has been a success?

 

The overarching objective of BSF is to transform education in every secondary school in England, and in so doing, improve the life chances of young people. The Department has commissioned a 3-year longitudinal study to help assess the success of BSF. Its first year report published at the end of 2007 highlighted the extent to which headteachers already believe BSF will have positive impacts on teaching, learning and community involvement:

 

Only 20% of headteachers think that current school buildings raise pupils' aspirations;

87% of headteachers said BSF will promote/accommodate a wide range of learning styles;

84% of headteachers said BSF will improve the quality of teaching and learning in the school;

56% of headteachers think their current building doesn't create a sense of ownership by community;

44% of headteachers think parents are not proud of the current school.

 

PfS commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research to carry out research on the impact of a new environment on students and teachers at one of the first BSF schools. Amongst the most significant findings, the proportions of students:

 

Who said they felt safe at school most or all of the time increased from 57 to 87 per cent

Who said they felt proud of their school increased from 43 to 77 per cent

Who said they enjoyed going to school increased from 50 to 61 per cent

Who perceived that vandalism was at least 'a bit of a problem' in their school decreased from 84 per cent of respondents to 33 per cent

Who perceived that bullying was a big problem decreased from 39 per cent to 16 per cent

Who expected to stay on in the sixth form or go to college increased from 64 to 77 per cent

 

14 - 19 Diplomas and Raising the Participation age

 

The Committee has asked for comments on the need to cater for the 14 -19 Diplomas and the joint working that will involve, and for the proposal to raise the participation age for education and training to 18.

 

Every local authority BSF Strategy for Change plan needs to make specific reference to how it is helping to deliver 14-19 reforms. This includes the delivery of Diplomas and the raising of the participation age. There will, of course, be different approaches and different levels of need across the country, dependent upon the quality and range of existing facilities, the current levels of participation and of NEETs (Not currently engaged in Employment, Education or Training), and the projected growth or decline in population levels. As well as the scrutiny provided by PfS, the local Learning and Skills Council looks at every BSF proposal so that building plans across the area can be aligned.

 

We are currently in the process of producing design guidance for local areas, showing a range of facilities that demonstrate good practice in terms of Diploma delivery. This guidance will further help local areas to decide what they need to build in order to achieve our aim of 'world-class' facilities for every learner.

 

Raising the participation age will mean that the proportion of young people participating in education will increase. However, because of a projected decline in the population of students of sixth form age, there will not be a large rise in the actual number of learners. The Department is in the process of refining its modelling so that we have a firmer picture of where the smaller amount of extra learners will be - in terms of where in the country, on what qualifications, and in what type of institution - so that those areas can respond as necessary.

 

Review of the management of future waves of BSF

 

The Committee has also asked for comments on the public consultation on the management of BSF waves 7 to 15 that we launched on 9 May.

 

At the outset of BSF, the two key criteria determining the order in which local authorise joined the programme were academic attainment and social deprivation. The first six waves have included those areas with high educational and social need. Now that around half of local authorities are engaged in BSF, it is timely to reflect on the lessons learned from the early waves.

Proposals in the consultation include using additional criteria to prioritise projects, and starting all authorities off with at least one priority project as soon as is practicable. It also explores barriers to cross-border working and delivering co-locational services in BSF projects. It also seeks views on allowing local authorities to join BSF when they can demonstrate they are ready to do so, rather than in 'waves' made up of a number of authorities at a time. This would mean more local authorities benefiting from the programme earlier than was previously possible, as well as supporting market capacity as projects would come to the market on a rolling basis rather than in large groups.

 

Following the consultation, we will invite authorities to revise their expressions of interest for inclusion in the programme. Guidance on this will be informed by the consultation. We will announce the revised national programme early in 2009, and announce the next authorities to start in the programme shortly thereafter.

 

In addition to the consultation, it has been our intention for some time to fast track a select number of projects within local authorities that can demonstrate they are ready to join BSF ahead of the original timetable for delivery. Authorities in Waves 7 to 9 were invited to consider whether they are in a position to take advantage of the opportunity to enter BSF earlier than currently scheduled. We recently announced that a further eight local authorities have been invited to come forward and enter BSF.

 

The Department has also cooperated with the National Audit Office in its evaluation of Building Schools for the Future.

 

July 2008