UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 981-i

HOUSE OF COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE THE

CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE

 

SUSTAINABLE SCHOOLS AND BUILDING SCHOOLS FOR THE FUTURE

 

TY GODDARD, STEVEN MAIR, DAVID RUSSELL and RICHARD SIMMONS

TIM BYLES

 

Evidence heard in Public

Questions 1 - 93

 

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee

on Monday 14 July 2008

Members present:

Mr. Barry Sheerman, in the Chair

Annette Brooke

Mr. Douglas Carswell

Mr. David Chaytor

Paul Holmes

Fiona Mactaggart

Mr. Andy Slaughter

Mr. Graham Stuart

Lynda Waltho

 

 

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Ty Goddard, Director, British Council for School Environments, Richard Simmons, Chief Executive, Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment, Steven Mair, Assistant Executive Director Resources and Infrastructure, Children, Young People and Families, and David Russell, Building Schools for the Future Programme Manager, Barnsley Council, gave evidence.

 

Q1 Chairman: I now welcome Ty Goddard, Richard Simmons, Steven Mair and David Russell. I apologise for the slight shortening of the session, which is the result of the previous emergency session on the testing system. Most of you were in for that, so you will know that it was rather important.

Ty Goddard is director of the British Council for School Environments. Richard Simmons is chief executive of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Steven Mair is assistant executive director, resource and infrastructure, children, young people and families for Barnsley council. David, I believe that you, too, are from Barnsley council.

David Russell: I am the programme manager for Building Schools for the Future in Barnsley.

 

Q2 Chairman: I shall give each of you a chance to say a little about BSF and where it is at the moment. We do not need your biography or your CV, just a quick minute and a half on how you see the programme at the moment. Steven Mair?

Steven Mair: Within Barnsley, we are taking out all our secondary and specialist stages and replacing them with completely new build across the whole borough in one wave. We see it as a tremendous opportunity for the children, the pupils and learners within the borough. Where we are in the process is part-way through the competitive dialogue, and we are targeting a third bidder in October. We have a tight and condensed procurement programme, and assuming that we get to October our plan is that all our estate will be replaced by 2011-12-within the next three to four years. Combined with our primary programme, that will put over half the children in Barnsley in 21st-century schools within the next four years.

 

Q3 Chairman: Thank you for that. David?

David Russell: I can only repeat what Steven said.

Chairman: I should have known that you, being from Barnsley, would be straight and succinct.

David Russell: It is the same answer.

 

Q4 Chairman: Good. Ty Goddard?

Ty Goddard: In many ways, if we were to give a head teacher's report on building schools for the future, we would say, "Very slow start to the task, but now seems willing to listen to the advice of others." For us, as an organisation with more than 300 members from both the public and the private sectors all intimately involved in schools investment, we have a sense of partnership for schools, and the Government are beginning to listen more.

Indeed, I think that the Committee's seventh report "Sustainable Schools; Are we building schools for the future?" played a major part in looking at this in terms of a system-wide response. What we welcomed in the Committee's report was that you were able to take all the key bits of that investment and look at them holistically. The head teacher would continue: "If this investment is to reach its full potential, it needs to remember the original question." The original question, as you quite rightly said in your last report on BSF, was about the transformation of teaching and learning in this country.

 

Q5 Chairman: Thank you for that. Richard Simmons?

Richard Simmons: We have been running our design assessment programme with Building Schools for the Future for a few months. We have seen a relatively small number of projects. We are reviewing all projects from wave 4 onwards, so it is at an early stage. We are seeing measurable improvements, by seeing projects through their first stage and then their final bid stage. We do not think that the quality is yet good enough, but there is a will from Partnerships for Schools to improve it. There are some specific areas that need improving, one of which Ty has just mentioned, such as transformational education, sustainability strategies and so on. We are now seeing more new designs that are better than the schools they are replacing, which is very positive. Design still needs to have a stronger weighting in the selection of local education partnerships than it has at the moment.

 

Q6 Chairman: Thank you. You have all been very succinct. Ty, we are always pleased when people say nice things about reports, but that will not stop you getting some hard questions from us. What worries those of us who have followed through the reports on the progress of Building Schools for the Future when we attend conferences and seminars is the fact that the visioning process is very patchy between different local authorities. The Committee really welcomed it; Barnsley and other local authorities have given it a chance. They have really thought about the sort of secondary education provisions-long term, the whole bit-that we want in the 21st century. Others that have gone through the BSF process seem to have done so in a rather patchy and pragmatic way. They do not seem to have had a serious go at the vision. Is that your experience, Richard Simmons?

Richard Simmons: Yes. At the moment, we are finding a wide range of understanding about what the transformational education agenda might mean. On our right is an authority that seems to have approached it very well, thought about what it wants to achieve, what kind of schools are needed and how to form a contract to achieve that. Other authorities are finding it less easy. We certainly welcome the fact that Partnerships for Schools will now bring forward authorities that are ready to go, rather than necessarily leaving them in serried ranks whether they are ready to go or not.

We need more opportunity to have much earlier conversations with local authorities about what they want to achieve from the educational agenda, as well as simply replacing the capital stock. No doubt Tim will say more about that. We need further work done, particularly on how to link the vision for education and the vision for the actual design and management of a school.

 

Q7 Chairman: Ty Goddard, if that is the case, and if you agree with it, who do you blame?

Ty Goddard: We are attempting not to blame anyone. The key issue is who is responsible for owning the transformation of teaching and learning. You are right. The Committee will see a vast spectrum of responses to the investment. You spent a lot of time listening and talking to people from Knowsley during the last report. The Knowsley experience and the Barnsley experience would be different from other authorities, but time and time again we have underestimated how complex the job is of thinking through what teaching and learning will be like in five or 10 years, let alone in 15 to 20 years.

In our evidence to the Committee this time, we wanted to give you an opportunity to hear the views from the ground. You will see from our evidence that often we are not investing in change management properly. Too often, we think that transformation will happen just because someone is shown a PowerPoint or someone mentions it 11 times in a speech. People who are already pressured in terms of the leadership of schools or in respect of being teachers in schools have to take part in a procurement process that, in itself, does not stimulate the sort of new thinking and the time for thinking that we need. People often succeed in developing their visions in spite of the present procurement process, not because of it.

 

Q8 Chairman: Any comments?

David Russell: We found that the idea of transformation, when we started discussing things with schools, was fairly low key. Obviously, we realised that our heads and their senior management team had to go into new buildings and operate the new buildings from two years hence pretty much seamlessly. In the two years that we have been discussing transformation-the designs, briefs and visions-we have seen a marked movement of their understanding of what transformation is, to the point where we are almost accepting designs. We have two bids on at the moment.

We know that shortly after we have chosen the designs, we shall look at them again and review them, because the senior management teams have moved on significantly from the point where they were three months ago. We are seeing the senior management teams within the schools progressing in that thought process. We are certainly seeing it with our second phase schools as well-they are developing and moving much further along the spectrum. It is gradually moving, but we have to be aware that these senior management teams have to go into schools in two or three years' time and still operate and produce the outputs, in terms of education.

So we have had to deal with it with a certain amount of tenderness, careful of the situation that we have been in with the senior management teams. We can certainly see that. Both our bidders have very good design teams, very good educationalists. If you like, they have been pulling us along. There is still room for some movement. We think that that will happen through the first phase, and certainly through the second and third phases. It is a moving process, but we have to be very careful about how and at what point we commit and allow things to move on.

 

Q9 Chairman: Steven, do you have anything to add to that?

Steven Mair: The authority began the overall visioning process in 2003. I think that is a key point. We began it two years before we were actually receiving the BSF funding-or the announcement that we were going to get it. That is very important. We started with a strategic approach. We engaged with our heads very early on, because we want to continue step change in learning and we had a number of school places issues to address. What we have tried to look at is overcoming some of the disadvantages and the barriers. In our case, we are not simply producing schools-we term them "advanced learning centres", and we are wrapping care and other provision around them.

An example of a barrier would be a child in one corner of the borough having to go to another corner of the borough to receive a service. If we can bring the services to the child, that helps attainment, because the child is not out of the school, and it focuses people on the child and not on the service, which is what this is all about. We are also looking at the pattern of the school day. You can find some schools at the moment that can open at 8.30 or can shut at 2.30. We are going for extended hours-8 in the morning until 10 at night, bringing in full community facilities as well. The key thing is that the visioning process has to start early, and BSF is simply a vehicle to deliver changes in learning, which we term "remaking learning".

Chairman: Thank you for that. We shall open up the questioning now. May I just say that it is a pleasure to see two young people at the back of the Committee today who would be, will be and are using schools at the moment? It is very nice to have you here. We do not often have the real consumers present. Thank you for being here.

 

Q10 Mr. Chaytor: In respect of the concerns about procurement, is part of the problem the elaborate structure that was set up through the local education partnerships? Had we not had the LEP structure, could local authorities have got on with procurement more quickly? I suppose that is a question to someone from Barnsley first, but also to Ty and Richard perhaps.

Steven Mair: I do not think it is the LEP association. We fully accept that it is a very complex process. I think there are some improvements. Our colleagues are becoming pragmatic as we go along, and we are moving things along more quickly. What we have to remember, certainly in our case, is that we are transforming the entire estate. For Barnsley, this is a massive financial investment. It is a 1 billion-plus contract. We want to get this right. We will get this right. We will improve learning as a consequence. We think it is well worth the investment in time and money that the council and the schools are putting in to get this right. The contract period is 25 years. Some elements of the school design life are 60 years. Quite frankly, we are probably putting up schools now that will be here next century. It is worth that time and investment to get it right.

A tremendous advantage that we see is the competitive dialogue process. As David described, we have two very good bidders. They are committed to the scheme and we are pushing them through the process. Keeping them in competition and pushing them, we are getting advantages out of that. That is what we intend to continue doing until we are totally content that what we are getting is right.

Richard Simmons: One of the critical issues is the fact that the LEP is a partnership that will last for some considerable time. As we have heard, a lot of the focus at the moment is on what happens up front-the first round of schools. As we said in our submission, about 80% of schools built by such programmes will not be part of the initial bid. The question is about how to maintain and sustain the partnership, and secondly, how to keep innovating so as to pick up on the transformational education agenda as we go along.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's position is that all procurement methods produce bad buildings. There is evidence for that. It is about how they are managed and used. The more the procurement process is used to produce a partnership that will stick together, deliver in the long run and deliver changes in how IT might be used in schools over the years, for example, the better the results will be. At the moment, not enough weight is given to design up front, and we are concerned to ensure that the momentum continues after the partnership is formed.

Ty Goddard: Initially, the ambition for BSF was vast. All the views from the ground seem to focus on the complexity of the procurement process. The changes that have been announced and are due to roll out are welcome. Partnerships for Schools listened to industry and people in local government. However, we still have a system that wastes money that should be spent on schools. It duplicates effort from world-class designers and builders, and it costs our colleagues in local authorities a vast amount to do it properly.

 

Q11 Mr. Chaytor: So where is the waste?

Ty Goddard: There are high costs for bidders and the bidding teams have to draw up designs that may never be used. They must be drawn up to a late stage, so they are highly detailed designs. There is a sense out in the country, and you have seen evidence from the Royal Institute of British Architects, that we seem to be besotted with having to put things in OJEU, the Official Journal of the European Union, when local authorities have spent years looking at procurement frameworks that they already have. We seem to be almost besotted with the process of the process, rather than allowing latitude. Because of the underspend, because targets were not reached, we had what were called one school pathfinders. Although complex at times, they have got rid of many of the hoops and the testing that seems to go on.

Although we have had best practice recommendations from the world of construction and big reports such as Latham and Egan, which explored how to find a partner, we have a procurement process that was probably fit for purpose in 2000, 2001 or 2003 when BSF was created. Is it up to speed and can it respond to the new agendas that we have now in our schools on children's services, regeneration and the big issue, which was not even mentioned at the launch-sustainability?

 

Q12 Mr. Chaytor: The Royal Institute of British Architects has suggested that one way to shorten the procurement process further is through what it calls smart PFI. What is that?

Ty Goddard: Or smart BSF as it also calls it. The voices of RIBA and CABE would want to join in a critique of the procurement process and an attempt to work through a design with a local authority, supporting that local authority with experts in design. The Jo Richardson community school in Barking and Dagenham was procured and commissioned using a smart PFI route-the Committee may have visited the school. The design was drawn up and put out to the market. If we are talking about transformation in real time, rather than on paper, some have suggested, including RIBA and others, that this is worth testing. What has always baffled me is why we have not piloted or attempted to test different types of procurement. We demand that areas such as Barnsley innovate, we demand that our schools innovate, and yet, we are locked into a procurement process that probably has non-innovation at its heart. It demands that people make decisions when their knowledge is least and that they meet bid team after bid team when their time is short. Learning technologies are moving so fast that the procurement process may create a risk-averse culture.

 

Q13 Mr. Chaytor: Do you think that the Department could publish a booklet suggesting half a dozen different models of procurement, in the way that it published one some time ago suggesting half a dozen different designs for schools?

Ty Goddard: I was in one of our major shire counties on Thursday, visiting schools. Those schools have been procured using the framework that they already had. What we are seeing, which was in CABE evidence, is that there is a fracturing of the procurement process already, but let us do that by design, not by accident.

 

Q14 Mr. Chaytor: Was that quicker for that county council?

Ty Goddard: I think it was. In the evidence that you have got from Knowsley, there is a table that suggests two years for the process. Barnsley may want to comment themselves.

Chairman: I am conscious that each section here is short because of the previous sitting, so one person to each question-rattle them off, please. I am sorry it has to be like this; it is the time constraints around us.

 

Q15 Mr. Chaytor: Okay, a final question: in terms of the partnerships, who dominates? Is it the local authority as manager; is it the voice of head teachers and teachers, in terms of the practicalities of this work; is it the construction industry; or is it the architects?

Richard Simmons: From our experience, it is a bit early to say. We are seeing examples of all those things: we are seeing some very dominant local authorities with a clear vision for what they are trying to achieve; some powerful contractors who are trying to drive the process in the direction that they want to go; and some opinionated architects, but many of them go in the end. It is probably a bit early to say who is going to be the dominant force, but ultimately, the key issue is that this has to be designed for the benefit of the young people who will be in the school. We would like to see in the system the young people themselves and the educationalists really empowered to deliver.

 

Q16 Mr. Chaytor: My next question is to Barnsley. You said, Steven, that you started the visioning process in 2003, but in terms of IT in learning, a lot has happened in the last five years and even more will happen in the next five years. To what extent are you confident that you are building an IT infrastructure that will be sufficiently flexible to allow for future development?

Steven Mair: I agree; it is a developing field. If we could all see 20 years ahead in ICT, it would be tremendous, but we are confident that we are building something that will be sustainable. The IT contract is for five years, unlike that for the buildings. We are building in a refresh after five years, so we can look at what has come along. In five or 10 years' time, children might be bringing in laptops or personal digital assistants themselves, as with calculators now. We are working with our partners and our advisers and thinking forward as far as we can, but we are not committing to more than five years and we are putting aside enough money, so that in five years we can revisit that and make sure that we are not locked into something that is out of date.

Chairman: Moving on to educational sustainability, Annette, you are going to lead us.

 

Q17 Annette Brooke: Yes, I think that that follows on rather nicely. I do not think that I have quite got a handle on designing schools for the long term, because we could divide that up into all sorts of time periods. To some extent, that must almost be looking into a crystal ball, in terms of what you are trying to achieve. As you have just touched on the five-year chunks of time, Steven, perhaps I could start with you. How much have you built into the projects the visions for different time periods ahead? You have mentioned 10 years, but what about into the next century? How have you coped with that?

Steven Mair: As I said, we started with an authority-wide vision. We have individuals from each school, so we are very much making these personalised buildings. They are not imposed by the council. It is extremely important to get buy-in from the people-the pupils, teachers and heads-who will be using them in future.

The key thing that we are trying to build in is flexibility and adaptability, because, as you quite rightly say, who can see so many years ahead? We are building in break-out spaces and flexible walls, so there could be a classroom of 30 next to another classroom of 30, but the wall comes apart so that you could have a class of 60 with two teachers-one teaching the majority of the children, or all of a level and one focusing on those who need additional help. There are differential levels within classrooms.

We are trying to take on board ICT as far as we can, such as video conferencing. A lesson could be put around the whole borough, again freeing up teachers to focus on those with particular additional needs. We are building in the children's services agenda, which a colleague referred to-this wrap-around care. They are not schools; they are advanced learning centres. We will have all our professionals at least hot-desking in those schools, including the welfare service and the youth service. We are engaging with our partners, the primary care trust and the police, and they will be on site. As far as possible-nobody can ever get it totally right-we are thinking and making things as flexible as we can to accommodate what comes on in future.

 

Q18 Annette Brooke: May I move to the other end of the table with a slightly different emphasis? Are all the issues that we have just touched on regular features of discussions in BSF projects?

Richard Simmons: Yes.

Annette Brooke: They really are?

Richard Simmons: They certainly are now that the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment is reviewing each local education partnership's proposals before they come to final contract. Our assessment method, which is fairly structured, is to look at a whole range of issues about flexibility and whether learning environments can change over time. We are very interested in ICT and how schools might adapt, so we might build an ICT room but, with changes such as I have just described, it can be used for another purpose.

Another thing is building for the long term. We are increasingly clear now that we have to make schools that are going to be environmentally sustainable. That means that sustainability has to be driven into the design of the school from the outset. We know for sure that we will need to have schools that rely much more on passive ventilation-in other words, air that moves through the building without being driven through it. We have to use natural light as much as we can, and we are starting to see that become a much stronger feature of school design. All those things are being discussed.

To go back to the beginning of the conversation, some authorities-Barnsley is a good example-understand these issues now, and others are still learning about them. We have to get the message out from the more successful partnerships that are developing to the newer partnerships that will develop in the future about how to go about ensuring that they are planning for the long term.

 

Q19 Annette Brooke: We look around and see masses of empty office buildings that will probably never be filled. Will we need all these school buildings in the future?

Richard Simmons: I think probably we will, because I am not sure that all those office buildings will be in the right place for the young people whom we want to use them.

 

Q20 Annette Brooke: No, I was not meaning using the office buildings. I meant that workers can work from home and therefore share desks, and maybe pupils will not go into a physical building every day in years to come.

Richard Simmons: I think that the long-term vision for schools is that they will become a hub for a wider group of people in the community. Young people will be staying on later, until they are 18, so pathways to work, for example, will become much more important to schools. It seems to me that the school could in some ways become a much more important focal point.

I am not sure whether everybody will be at school for the same hours as now, but some of the support that needs to be delivered to young people-Barnsley have referred to this-is well delivered through something that is local to people's neighbourhood and perhaps more open to the community than many schools have been. The Jo Richardson school, for example, which we talked about earlier, has its sports facilities and library shared with the community. I think that in future we will see work spaces being shared so that businesses can be connected much more to their future work force in schools and so on. I think that they are going to become more important in future, but probably quite different from how they are designed now.

 

Q21 Annette Brooke: Right; going back to Steven, how much vision have you done on how teaching and learning will change with the shape of the building, or vice versa?

Steven Mair: We are working very heavily with our colleagues in schools on that. We have what we call "learning stars", who at the moment are 50 of our best and most innovative teachers. They are working with colleagues in the BSF team, being made aware of the extra resources that will be made available to them. They are testing different curriculum designs. We have a whole authority day in October, when they will come together with the pupils and the teachers, reflecting on what has worked. The key thing is not to get to the opening of the new buildings and suddenly start thinking "We'd better start innovating on teaching and learning." We want to be in there on day one, and really making these work as best we can.

This is not a buildings programme in isolation. It is not a teaching and learning programme in isolation. We have our BSF team; we have our advisory team; and we work very closely together on that, so that we get the best out of both.

 

Q22 Annette Brooke: Ty, that is very visionary, but is it going to work like that?

Ty Goddard: I respect not only Barnsley's optimism but Barnsley's sense of asking the really difficult questions, which are: what sort of education do we want and what kind of spaces will support that? That transformation, I think, is going to be difficult. It is going to need a higher level of support. It is going to need a process that actually meaningfully involves teachers and young people in sharing and telling us, as adults, what kind of spaces they learn best in. Also, it should allow the meaningful involvement of teachers. Too often teachers are the ones who are not consulted. Teachers are the ones who are not supported. I do not think that the transformation that you are seeing in Barnsley will necessarily be shared all over the country.

We have to be optimistic. We must celebrate this investment. We have had a culture for many decades of being experts at patch and mend and make do in our schools. With that leap from deciding where the bucket goes under the leaky roof to beginning to think through what the future holds, as David said, the impetus of technology is going to be absolutely enormous.

 

Q23 Annette Brooke: A very quick question: to what extent have Government been leading the process of the interrelationship; or to what extent have they been following?

Ty Goddard: Leadership is absolutely crucial. We have a chief executive at Partnerships for Schools now who has experience of local government and procurement. He has said publicly time and again that he wants to go further in terms of loosening up the procurement process, making it much less expensive for bidders, and much less onerous for local authorities to actually begin to build these schools.

I think we need leadership from Government. One of the main points of your last report was that we need to begin to define what we actually mean by transformation within education. The nature of leadership in other countries is different around teaching and learning. Here we seem to have in many ways become quite hands-off, and I think, often, the bidding process is used for something that it should not be, which is to explore different visions. A bidding process is not the best place.

Finally, we are not learning as a nation. Where is the post-occupancy evaluation? We are building lots and lots of schools, but nowhere do we listen to the users and what they think about these buildings. Nowhere do we collect proper energy data. How can you have sustainable schools when you do not know what energy is being used in your present schools? So I am talking about meaningful stakeholder engagement; a procurement process that really focuses on teaching and learning and the involvement of learners and teachers; and actually beginning to capture some of the lessons that we know are out there. It goes beyond design review panels, if I may say so respectfully to CABE; it goes to the heart of how you learn as a country and how you feed that information back.

 

Q24 Chairman: You said nice things about Tim Byles and the process at the beginning, and you end up saying they are not doing their job.

Ty Goddard: I said all sorts of things about Tim Byles. I have said that I think we finally have a leader of Partnerships for Schools who knows the terrain.

 

Q25 Chairman: Let us go to the end bit, though, about post-evaluation-

Ty Goddard: Post-occupancy evaluation?

Chairman: Yes.

Ty Goddard: That is what I think would be useful.

 

Q26 Chairman: Well, you have been saying that Tim Byles has been ignoring it.

Ty Goddard: I do not think he has been completing ignoring us.

Chairman: All right.

Ty Goddard: With your help, we can make this a system of investment that has improvements at its heart.

Richard Simmons: I wanted to say that no bit of Government at the moment is following the Office of Government Commerce and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury's instruction that they should do post-occupancy evaluation. In fact, PFS has started doing that on projects now, so we will start to see it coming through the system. It is very important.

Chairman: We leaned heavily, apparently, on the Office of Government Commerce to get the last contract that we discussed in this Committee a short time ago.

 

Q27 Mr. Stuart: Is environmental sustainability lost among the myriad demands in the BSF programme?

Richard Simmons: It is one of the areas that we see as an area for improvement. We see several things that are getting much better very quickly, including things such as circulation in schools and how food gets served at lunchtimes. At the moment, we are not seeing enough projects driven by a proper sustainability strategy. Quite often, we are seeing that the technical side of sustainability is not strong enough. Simple things, such as which way the building faces on the site to take best advantage of the sun, natural light and so on, are not necessarily driving projects at the moment, so we would like to see greater improvement on that.

To be fair to the people designing schools, that is, again, not unique to schools. It is an issue that we come across in design review all the time. Outside schools design review, we have seen about 700 projects in our full design review panel over the last two years and we reckon only about seven of those had a proper sustainability strategy that we would respect. It is an important issue. We have not gone far enough yet. This Committee's work in reviewing the issue has been quite helpful in driving the agenda forward, but we would like to see a lot more improvements in that area.

 

Q28 Mr. Stuart: But we have a Government who would like to be a global leader on climate change, and we have multi-billion pound expenditure-a quite extraordinary investment-and you are telling us that it does not deliver the most fundamental, basic environmental approaches. If schools are being built and they do not even work out, from an environmental point of view, which way they are facing, where the light comes in and what their energy use is likely to be, there is something pretty fundamentally wrong, is there not?

Richard Simmons: We have a big issue about skills in this area in the country at the moment, and an industry that is not yet used to the kinds of building that are being demanded of it by the kinds of brief that are coming forward. Again, those from Barnsley might want to say more about what they have been doing on that front.

 

Q29 Chairman: Do you mean there are architects who do not know which way a building should face?

Richard Simmons: We have architects who certainly do not know how to design low-energy and high natural light buildings. They have been used to designing buildings with a lot of air conditioning, lots of artificial lighting and very high intensity energy usage. As I think I said to the Committee last time, we are also seeing quite a few buildings coming through where the energy strategy does not take account of the amount of IT that is being put into the building, for example. We are seeing an industry that needs to learn faster. At the moment, we are not satisfied that we are getting the best we could, but the industry, in every sector, is still struggling with this agenda.

Steven Mair: Sustainability is very much a key item in what we are doing. We have a number of initiatives, and Dave can add to this. For example, all our schools will be 100% biomass heated, which is a carbon neutral source. We will have BREEAM-BRE environmental assessment method-ratings of excellent. We are looking at cooling as well as heating to try to take account of the forthcoming issues that we all know about. We are looking at the potential for wind turbines, which is still subject to negotiation with our bidders, but a lot of this comes down to leadership by the authority, because this is not particularly driven by our bidders.

David Russell: The essence of the problem is that PFI in itself does not really allow for sustainability, because a bidder will put in a bid that gives him good marks and fulfils the criteria of the output spec, but energy is basically down to the client. The client pays for energy, so there is no impetus for the PFI bidder to put things in, because they do not improve his bid. In Barnsley, we recognise that. We have been through a 13-primary PFI scheme, and a lot of fine words were said about sustainability, but nothing really came out of it. We put in half a million pounds per scheme for our nine advanced learning centres, basically for enhanced sustainability issues, and that is paying for the list of items that Steve mentioned.

We are also considering enhanced passive cooling, which has been mentioned. We are looking at putting into the building some infrastructure to allow for future climate change. We are considering enhanced under-floor heating-sized coils in the floor, and absorption chilling, which is a way of chilling a building using a boiler. I know that seems a contradiction, but it is based on biomass heating. Those are all things that we have actively promoted in our scheme and not things that you would necessarily get within a PFI-procured system. That is what we are doing.

 

Q30 Mr. Stuart: Where is the biomass taking place? Where is the power being burned?

David Russell: Localised boilers from each of the adult learning centres. The biomass itself will be harvested locally. Barnsley has some pedigree in biomass boilers. Its recent council offices are biomass-powered, as are a couple of major new developments.

 

Q31 Mr. Stuart: But that bears out Ty's earlier remark about the fact that authorities such as yours take the issue seriously. They are not box ticking. They are doing so despite the procurement process, rather than because of it.

Steven Mair: We are doing it on top of, as well as leading the procurement process. As I mentioned to colleagues earlier, it is important that we have leadership in Government, but it is very important that we have leadership and skills in the authorities because we are the people who will be running the institutions for the next 25 or 50 years.

 

Q32 Mr. Stuart: Does anyone want to comment on the Department for Children, Schools and Families' environmental sustainability taskforce and its effectiveness?

Ty Goddard: It is early days for that taskforce. There has been lots of discussion. The Government have produced case studies-not always successful with regard to energy usage. We have sharp rhetoric, yet at school level we still have confusion about sustainability and how to prioritise it and prioritise solutions within the process. There is a sense that there are technical answers all the time. For example, putting a windmill on the roof of a school equals sustainability. That was put to me in the phrase eco-bling. Eco-bling does not necessarily equal sustainability.

Chairman: We were not dazzled by that.

Ty Goddard: I am your straight man.

Mr. Stuart: Aren't we all?

Ty Goddard: Some of us may be, and some may not.

Chairman: It must be the end of term.

Ty Goddard: That taskforce is hopefully going to be useful. It is owned by the profession. I do not think that Richard is entirely correct when he says that we do not have the skills as a country or a profession. The profession is thinking far ahead. Arup gave evidence in the last report. It is a global leader in such issues and seriously pointed the way to how we begin to think about sustainability in our schools.

 

Q33 Mr. Stuart: I am trying to capture this. What you are telling us is that Barnsley is a lead authority. It has taken an interest in this and has been ahead of the game. Authorities that have all the opposite qualities rarely turn up to give evidence to us. There tends to be more of them than there are of this kind. The picture that you seem to be painting is of a pretty disastrous failure to deliver environmental sustainability on a consistent basis across this incredibly large investment. Is that fair?

Richard Simmons: I think that there is a way to go.

 

Q34 Mr. Stuart: How disastrous is it? It sounds pretty calamitous.

Richard Simmons: I have to declare an interest in the taskforce because one of our commissioners, Robin Nicholson, chairs it. The point about skills is that there are organisations, such as Arup, that have the skills. The question is whether there are enough of them in the right places at the right time. The evidence of what we are seeing at the moment at CABE is that there are not yet enough people in the right place at the right time or enough clients who are making the right demands.

It is a fixable problem because schools in Norway or Germany are already achieving very high standards. It is about making sure that the standards are out there and that those who will be the clients understand them. It is also about making sure, as colleagues from Barnsley have said, that the bidders know that it is on the agenda and that somebody who is capable will be checking it to make sure that it is being delivered.

 

Q35 Mr. Stuart: My constituency was particularly badly affected by the floods last year. What reassurance can you give us that schools will be built with flooding in mind, and be sensibly placed and protected?

Richard Simmons: It is important to recognise that sustainability is not just about zero carbon. It is about a whole range of things, including how to deal with storm weather events in the future. From what we have seen, it is difficult to say that that is a serious consideration. Not many schools have been put before us that are in areas of high flood risk, but that is certainly on the list of issues that we shall be wanting to pick up.

Ty Goddard: It would be unfair to use the words "disastrous failure". It is a long journey. It is incumbent on us that we fully and properly respond to the challenge but, once again, latitude within a procurement process may make some of those issues easier to grapple with and understand. I do not know whether colleagues from Barnsley want to comment, but there is often confusion in whole-life costings for new technologies.

 

Q36 Mr. Stuart: Typically, water-heating pumps are vast users of electricity. Europe's largest pump manufacturer told me last week that that always gets squeezed out in the PFI. As a result, it ends up selling a pump that is not energy-efficient. That is just a disaster. It is not cost-effective for the operator of the school or for any other facility. Will Barnsley tell us that it will put in high-efficiency pumps each time?

Steven Mair: We go back to the biomass, which we are putting into every advanced learning centre and special school, which are carbon-neutral for the whole of heat.

Richard Simmons: To me, it is critical that the partnership is responsible in the longer term for everything to do with the school. If, as you say, the client ends up with the energy bill, there is no incentive in the system to make sure that you build in such technology. If you invest up front, you will save money in the long run so it is a good idea to share the savings and the benefits.

 

Q37 Paul Holmes: When we were taking evidence and visiting schools for the first inquiry, there seemed to be a general trend that either sustainable measures were squeezed out because the up-front costs could not be afforded or because individual schools had just not thought about it. Why is the Barnsley experience different? You talked about pump-priming. Does that mean you are putting in money other than BSF money? Is it also better in Barnsley because you are planning it as an authority, rather than as, say, 20 individual schools doing the wrong thing?

Steven Mair: Barnsley council and its schools are putting in a considerable amount, over and above what the Government have given. In effect, our scheme is 60% funded by the Government and 40% funded by Barnsley and its schools. It is its number one priority, and there is a major investment going on. As for sustainability, we have targeted it. We are well aware of it, along with many other issues, and we have put specific funding to one side to make sure that we achieve it because we can see the benefits going forward.

 

Q38 Paul Holmes: Are schools getting involved in the same sort of pattern? How much flexibility do they have within your framework?

Steven Mair: We are not imposing one standard of design or anything like that on schools. For cost-efficiency purposes, about 80% of the build will be the same and 20% will be personalised. All our schools are drawing up their own vision and their own reference scheme, and working fully with the authority. The worst thing in the world is to impose a model on schools, because they are working in it, and they need to own it and inspire it. They need to make it work, and that is what we are doing. It might cost a little more, but the figures are not big compared with motivating and raising attainment for pupils and teachers in the next 25 to 50 years.

 

Q39 Chairman: This is a very interesting session. I am sure that we could go on for much longer, but I have a quick question to ask Richard or Ty before we finish. We notice that big contractors have a large number of BSF PFIs. You have talked about skills, capacity and innovation. The programme has been going for some years now. Surely they have the skills? Are not some of the big contractors-not only Arup, but others-leading in innovation?

Richard Simmons: We are still learning a lot about how to deliver sustainability, for example. At the moment, I do not think that the whole industry is learning as rapidly as the best bits of it. In another part of my life, I am involved in Constructing Excellence, whose members tend to be ahead of the rest of the industry on these sorts of issues. It is a question of whether your business is focused on these kinds of improvements, and some are more so than others.

 

Q40 Chairman: I am afraid that that is the end of the session. I thank you very much, particularly the Barnsley people. Jeff Ennis used to be on the previous Committee, and Barnsley was the most mentioned place name. We have done him proud by hearing that your experience is innovative and useful, so thank you.

Thank you, too, Ty Goddard and Richard Simmons. Will you remain in conversation with us? A regular update on BSF will take place. A large amount of taxpayers' money is involved, and we will keep coming back to it. If you go away and think of things that you should have said to the Committee or things that should have been asked, will you get in contact with us?

 

Examination of Witness

Witness: Tim Byles, Chief Executive, Partnership for Schools, gave evidence.

Q41 Chairman: On behalf of members of the Committee, I welcome the next witness, Tim Byles. Some of us know that he has a passion for Shakespeare in schools, and some of us know that he was formerly the chief executive of a local authority in the eastern region. Welcome to our proceedings. You have heard a lot of the previous session, and we are going to give you a chance. You saw what was said in our report, which was not badly received when it came out. You heard from the evidence that Ty, Richard and the Barnsley people were giving that not all the criticisms in our report have been answered. Where are we with BSF, from where you are sitting?

Tim Byles: Thank you, Chairman. I am glad to be in front of the Committee again and to have the opportunity to brief you on the progress in the programme since I last gave evidence, back in December 2006.

 

Q42 Chairman: You had just been appointed, had you not?

Tim Byles: Indeed. I was just about to refer to that. It was a particular pleasure, if a bracing one. I had been in the job for only five weeks when I appeared last time, and quite a lot has happened since. I would like to take the opportunity to mention some of it.

As you will see from the short hand-out that we have circulated, when I arrived at Partnerships for Schools in November 2006 two local authorities had been through the procurement process and selected a private sector partner. Today, that number stands at 21. Then, a few early quick-win schools had opened their doors; today, we have 13 open, with that number set to more than double this autumn and rise to about 200 schools per annum in the next few years. Some 80 of the 150 top-tier authorities are now in the programme, and about 1,000 schools are somewhere between design and delivery in BSF.

So there has been significant progress since I was last here. Indeed, 2007-08 was the first financial year in which PFS met or exceeded all its delivery targets. I am confident that we are on track to repeat that progress this year, after a slow start in BSF, which was the subject of much of our discussion last time.

Clearly, success should not be measured just in terms of deals done or bricks and mortar. When I arrived at PFS, much of the public scrutiny of the programme had focused purely on its time scales. It was welcome to have a discussion in the Committee, and read in your report, about having a focus on quality as well and recognising the potential of the programme to help transform life chances for millions of young people.

As the delivery agency for BSF and for academies, it is the job of Partnerships for Schools to ensure that the programme delivers on time and on budget. We are on track to do that, but it is more important that the programme delivers on its ultimate objective, which is to help transform educational delivery for every young person, no matter what their background. That focus on quality is what has driven a number of changes that we have made to the processes that help to deliver BSF, and it is helpful to think about those in three parts. There is a difference between early projects, which are often focused on in BSF, and those that are going through the system now.

If I may, I shall mention two or three changes that we have introduced. First, on pre-procurement, we have tried to make sure that the vision of the local authority is sufficiently ambitious and bold, and that the local authority is ready to hit the ground running early, on entry to the programme. You heard from the previous witnesses about some issues in early procurement, where the procurement process was being used as a means of refining the objectives of the programme. Those pre-procurement changes have improved the time by up to 30% for local authorities-a reduction of nearly six months through starting earlier and being better prepared.

Secondly, on procurement, we have streamlined the process within EU requirements, which will deliver significant savings to BSF at a programme level-up to 250 million. That will help to ensure that the market is vibrant and that there are enough players to compete, in order to deliver a value-for-money solution. Thirdly, we are now engaged in a review of the operational phase, checking and challenging how local education partnerships are operating in practice, and how they are delivering value for money to the public purse.

Those three changes have secured some significant reductions in the delivery timetable-up to eight months in total-and cost savings. I am more encouraged, however, because they provide a much better platform with which to ensure that BSF delivers learning environments in which every young person can do their best and can reach for excellence. We are already starting to see tangible results from that through independent review work. The National Foundation for Educational Research has conducted some research on Bristol Brunel academy, our first local education partnership-delivered school, which has given tangible and significant improvements in attendance, aspirations and staying-on rates.

We are seeing good results on refurbishment schemes as well. For example, in Sunderland, the Oxclose School has already seen an improvement on GCSE results, from 24% of pupils attaining A to C grades in GCSEs, including English and maths, up to 41% last summer, and the forecast is that that will exceed 50% this summer.

The last point that I would like to mention in these opening remarks is to highlight the importance that we give to learning lessons, gathering lessons learned, and sharing them in the BSF community. We have increased our activity on that front significantly over the last 20 months: introducing a national learning network for BSF; re-launching our website, with dedicated spaces for learning from experience, from which e-mail alerts are issued to the BSF community as new lessons are learned; a quarterly publication sent to all local authorities and the private sector, highlighting learning and experience; a comprehensive calendar of conferences, including sector-specific ones on ICT and design already this year; and we have started a programme of BSF open days, where local authorities and the private sector will be invited to a new BSF school, to hear direct from the partners involved in delivery, the challenges and issues that they face. The first one is to take place in the Michael Tippett school in Lambeth this autumn, a school that I think you visited recently, Chairman. Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, there is to be a post-occupancy evaluation of every BSF school, as we announced earlier this year. The gathering of that kind of information is important for the sharing of best practice-what has worked and what has worked less well. I am very keen that we do that.

When I gave evidence to the Committee back in 2006, I made it clear then that we would continue to learn throughout BSF. That is still my firm belief. It is about helping to transform lives, and we at BSF will continue to work with and challenge local authorities, the private sector partners and ourselves, to do our best to ensure that we make the most of this opportunity.

Chairman: Let us start by drilling down on the procurement process.

 

Q43 Mr. Carswell: I have a couple of questions. There is a massive amount of expenditure, putting a lot of our money on to the balance sheet of a few big corporations. Some people say that when it comes to defence procurement, a few small contractors have got the process rigged in their favour. Is that happening with this? Are there a few lucky ones who put all that public money on to their balance sheets because there are barriers to entry?

Tim Byles: No, that is not true of BSF. We currently have 21 active bidding consortiums into BSF and we have three new entrants coming into the market at the moment. An issue for us, as we think about the way in which the programme rolls out, is how to balance the breadth of market activity with the capacity and ability to learn. We are not seeing the reduction that some other programmes have seen. You mentioned defence, and health is another example where there is quite quickly a consolidation down to a small number of consortiums. That has not been the case so far in BSF.

 

Q44 Mr. Carswell: How can that be? If you constrain the supplier in any market, the seller sets the terms of trade. PricewaterhouseCoopers did a report that, for example, allowed for more comprehensive pre-qualification for bidding consortiums, and more focus on effective partnering issues. Those are all barriers to entry, are they not?

Tim Byles: I do not think so. We have been careful to try to ensure that they are not barriers to entry. What is interesting is that, since the launch and approval of the procurement review, we have seen three new entrants. A range of factors influences activity in the market. Success is one-we have seen some people moving in and out-and the balance of the consortium is a second, but we are certainly not seeing a reduction on the basis of that activity.

 

Q45 Mr. Carswell: Do you have any data, which we could perhaps make available afterwards, that would show exactly how the money had been spent-where the direct recipients are and what range of businesses are getting a share of the market?

Tim Byles: Yes, we can certainly publish, and do publish, the successful consortiums by local authority area, as they achieve success in BSF. There is not a problem in making that available. We also publish the scale of activity earlier in the process. The process begins with a number of bidders expressing an interest. There is then a shortlisting down to three and then two bidders, prior to the real competition, as it were. There is no shortage of information around, in relation to the market.

 

Q46 Mr. Carswell: In order to squeeze better value for money out of every tax pound spent, is there anything that you would like actively to do now that would expand the range of bidders-I am not talking about what has happened, but going forward-perhaps even letting in small contractors who would not get a bite of the cherry?

Tim Byles: Yes, I am keen to find ways in which small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a large consortium, can participate in BSF. We are already seeing that through the supply chain and through the relationships with the larger consortiums. We are also seeing a number of middle-sized builders and contractors leading the smaller schemes. There is quite a large range in the size of projects in BSF, from 80 million up to 1.5 billion. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach here. What we are trying to do is to balance the access with value for money, and with delivery and improvement of efficiency through time. The Department for Children, Schools and Families has just concluded a consultation on the second half of BSF-2007 to 2015-where we are looking at opportunities just like the ones you mention, for other entrants to bid on more targeted, smaller-scale schemes.

 

Q47 Mr. Carswell: So, if a smaller business came to me and said that they found that they had barriers to entry, I could bring them to you and we could work out what those barriers to entry were and how to remove them?

Tim Byles: You certainly could. As I said, a number of smaller contractors are participating very effectively in BSF, with the flexibility that they bring. There is a need to balance value for money overall with flexibility and pace, which is often what they bring.

 

Q48 Mr. Carswell: The second thing on which I would be interested in your views-we looked at this earlier-is the idea of national guidelines for the design of schools locally. I am very conscious of that. This is more to get your thoughts. In the '60s and '70s everyone thought tower blocks were a good thing, and then-someone talked about leaky roofs earlier-flat roofs were everything. Today, although I will probably be hung, drawn and quartered for saying it, the fad of the moment is carbon neutrality-we may or may not be talking about that in 20 years' time. Now there is this great trend to make schools into some sort of community centre-that may or may not work. Even though people talk about flexibility and you can change the size and shape of the classroom, the fact is that there are certain preconceptions about what a school is going to be and what it is going to do. Is there not a certain danger in having national guidelines? Would there not be a smarter way of doing this, which would be somehow to allow different localities to do their own thing, giving them the freedom to develop?

Tim Byles: I think that the issue from my perspective is to try and get the balance right between having some national standards, which build on experience across the country, and giving local flexibility to make choices that are available to the very different settings in which these schools are located. Some local authorities have a local vision that sets their BSF school in the context of a much wider economic regeneration strategy, for example. Some others want to see schools as more stand-alone elements of the community spread across a large county, for example. Both of those are fine, as far as BSF is concerned. What is not fine is if we were to try and create a situation where there was overcrowding or inadequate facilities against some measures where we are clear that we want to stimulate learning, which is why every BSF school is an extended school. That is not a one-size-fits-all measure. It allows that extension to fit with the locally owned strategy-as it does in Essex, for example-and to fit more broadly with the local delivery of the gathering of services. Those might be social care services or wider education services as the children's plan envisages; but there is a great deal to be learned in a world that needs to be increasingly flexible.

So we are trying to create places that are effective in today's technology and that have the flexibility to adapt through time. We want to check that progress with the users as well as the parents, teachers and communities in which these schools sit. I am very keen that we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach and that we learn lessons for where they are working-because there are some similarities across communities and there are experiments going on in what is the best way to deliver some aspects of learning in a modern environment.

 

Q49 Mr. Carswell: One final question. Would you allow a school that says it is not going to have any access to any community activity, is going to go to the other extreme, is not going to worry too much about this carbon neutral stuff and is going to maybe emulate what the Victorians did? Would you allow that? That would be flexible.

Tim Byles: It would be flexible, wouldn't it? No; on sustainability we would not, because there are some national guidelines. To pick up on some points that were made before I sat down here, BSF was not high on the sustainability agenda when it began. The Government clarified the position in relation to sustainability last year through the introduction of a 60% reduction in carbon footprint for new BSF schools. We are on a trajectory via a taskforce that I know you have heard about this afternoon to get to carbon neutral schools by 2016.

So there are some national standards that local schools need to take into account, but the dimensions of the extended school is very much a discussion that we have with each local authority-and, indeed, each school-to try to set a balance and pattern of service into what is a much larger and more complex service environment locally.

Mr. Slaughter: Are we going on to educational sustainability?

Chairman: You can go on with anything you like.

 

Q50 Mr. Slaughter: What has begun to interest me about the programme, which I suppose naively I originally thought was simply a modernisation and capital programme-there is nothing wrong with that at all-is how it can be used to change the whole educational approach of a local education authority. But that can be quite a political process. I am going to give you a parochial example, but it may have a wider significance; however, before I come on to it, are you aware of that? If there is a political agenda coming to you from local authorities in the way that they wish to spend these very considerable sums of money, are you alive to that and are you responding in a political way, or are you simply ticking a lot of boxes to see whether the money is being spent in a proper way?

Tim Byles: I am certainly not responding in a political way. I am responding to the different perspectives and priorities that local areas have-and they are different, across the country. There are some givens about the national programme. It is about raising standards comprehensively, and agreeing locally through a strategy for change process-which is the shorthand we have for capturing the local education strategy and the estate strategy in a form that does drive up standards and is in the interests of every young person within a local authority area.

You are right; that sounds deceptively simple. There are issues about boundaries and the migration of pupils; about diversity and choice; and about the extent to which some local authorities want to gather wider services on and around school sites. That differs, but what we are trying to have-and that I believe we are developing-is an intelligent dialogue about the aspirations of the Government, which I am there to represent, and the aspirations of the local authority and the leader and chief executive of the council, with whom we deal, as well as the director of children's services. That is why, for each BSF school, as we begin them, I visit the authority and speak to the leadership-political and official-and we reach an agreement, which is quite a formal agreement, about the process that will be gone through in order to deliver the educational changes locally. I hope that that answers your question.

 

Q51 Mr. Slaughter: Well, it allows me to introduce my example, which is one of my local authorities, Hammersmith and Fulham. Briefly, there are four principles that I see in the BSF programme, which they are just putting forward to Partnerships for Schools as we speak, almost. One is the downgrading of community schools and the original proposal to amalgamate three community schools in a 16-form entry, which sounded quite bizarre. The second is to expand faith schools, even though they are over-represented already in the local school economy. The third is a massive expansion in sixth forms, but with no resources going to the one successful sixth-form college in the area, and a lot of the money therefore going to the building of those sixth forms-up to seven new or expanded sixth forms-within a small local authority area over a five-year period. Finally, there is the use of the money to dispose of assets to the independent sector in order to set up independent schools.

None of those principles accords with what I would necessarily want to see as a use for Government money. I thought it was for improving school standards overall, but particularly for community schools with a high percentage of free-school-meals pupils that, although they were improving greatly, were not doing so well. Taking that as a hypothetical example, how would you respond?

Tim Byles: It sounds very hypothetical. I cannot comment on the absolute detail of that scheme, although I would be happy to talk to you separately about it. I just look at some of the items that you have raised.

We are not at all interested in the downgrading of community schools. We are interested in trying to ensure good access and good choice for every young person across the local authority area. We recently had the remit meeting, so we have commenced a process for the strategy for change that allows for further development. We have not agreed every item in it as yet. There was an eight-week process at the beginning and a 20-week process for the second part of the strategy for change. That will allow us to reach an agreement-or, indeed, a disagreement: if there is disagreement, the project will not proceed-about fair access and good opportunities for all young people.

As for the hypothetical expansion of faith schools, we looked in quite a lot of detail at the pupil place numbers and the expected pupil places for each local authority area. That is a science, but it is also an art, particularly in London and especially in places like Hammersmith and Fulham, which have a large percentage of resident pupils who are educated outside the borough. We are trying to look at it in the broader sub-regional context in order to reach conclusions. If there is good evidence that we need more places in faith schools, we are capable of agreement on that, although I do not know in this specific case.

On the expansion of sixth forms, we will be looking at the track record and delivery of existing institutions as well as any plans for new sixth-form places. The disposal of assets is generally a matter for the local authority, although there is a relationship between the disposal of school assets and the contribution that local authorities need to make towards the programme more generally in their areas.

All those points are ones that I would expect to agree with any hypothetical Hammersmith and Fulham over this period of the strategy for change process. Those are the principles that we will look at, and we have started a process that will debate them and bring them to a conclusion before the project proceeds in earnest.

 

Q52 Mr. Slaughter: To conclude, even though you would obviously not be looking at this from a political point of view, let alone a party political point of view, if issues raised in that way appeared to you not to be achieving the objectives of the programme, would you at least question them?

Tim Byles: Yes. If they were not achieving the objectives of the programme, we would not allow them to proceed. It is normally the case that in the pre-engagement and early engagement phases we are sufficiently clear about the parameters that we are dealing with, and if not, we tend not to start the process. I am hopeful that we will reach a positive conclusion in Hammersmith and Fulham, but I do not have available this afternoon the detailed points that you make.

Mr. Slaughter: I would be happy to supply them.

 

Q53 Chairman: Keeping on that point, if we interviewed the Learning and Skills Council and other players, such as the Association of Colleges and so on, about the transition of two years, and the dramatically changed shape of the LSC, they would say that because of you lot in Building Schools for the Future, and because of the academies programme-because of the world that they live in, in terms of planning their future-you are encouraging local authorities to plan for the future across the piece, to have a vision, yet at the same time they, especially the further education sector, will say, "How can we plan anything?"

How can the local authority plan anything, with trust schools and academies both having the potential for sixth forms, with Building Schools for the Future allowing sixth forms in their new build? It is a crazy kind of environment. Who is doing the planning? How can order be brought to that chaos?

Tim Byles: I think there is order. I think that order is coming. Through the strategy for change process we are trying to take into account 14 to 19 provision, locate the education strategy within the broader community strategy that the local authority holds for the whole area, and for that to cover 0 to 19 and beyond. We are working work with the Learning and Skills Council in London, looking specifically at the joins between vocational opportunities, academic sixth-form opportunities and the rest of the secondary school agenda, in order to overcome that kind of issue and to ensure that things are connected.

A single document should set out clearly what a local authority wants to achieve in a broader context in its community strategy. Within the strategy for change it says, "Here are the places that we need for this local authority, here is the mix between vocational and academic opportunities and here are the specific linkages." Each school has a strategy for change, as well as the local authority. We increasingly want to share vocational and academic resources between institutions in the locality, through clusters, federations or simply through the operation of expertise in adjacent areas. That is happening more and more, and it is a key principle of BSF to look after everybody's needs for an authority, not just for our own purposes, but for good planning generally to cover diversity and choice issues, efficiency and value for money.

 

Q54 Chairman: So how do you look down and look up? You are mainly at secondary level. Do you look down to the primary level and say, "What is the quality of new build going on outside the BSF programme?" What about the environmental standards that Graham mentioned just now? Do you look up to the FE sector? When we did the last inquiry on BSF we were told that 50% of that estate had been rebuilt, often not to the high standards that BSF hopes to achieve, and certainly not in terms of environmental standards and carbon footprint. Is your good practice spilling over, down or up?

Tim Byles: It is starting to. I do not claim that we have this solved-we do not. We have an agreement to look at the whole picture in terms of pupil numbers. Increasing numbers of local authorities use their local education partnership as a means to procure and deliver primary schools through the primary programme. We are making the connection at the strategy for change level with further education and on to higher education. We are responsible for the delivery of BSF We do not run the primary programme. We are increasingly looking for ways to join that process up and we work actively with the Department for Children, Schools and Families to find better ways of doing so.

This year we will see clearer linkages emerging and I hope that we will be able to deliver linkages beyond the strategy level with FE provision. We must allow the circulation of pupils between FE and sixth-form provision, which we already see in several strategy for change proposals. Blackpool is an example that springs to mind where we consciously have a programme that does exactly that. It allows the movement of pupils between an FE college and the seven secondary schools within the borough.

 

Q55 Chairman: Tim, you have been chief executive of a big local authority. We have taken evidence from local authorities and visited them. Taking on a big BSF strategy is demanding on resources, time and staffing. At the same time, the Government are throwing open the careers service and the funding of further education, and piling on the number of things that local authorities can deliver. Do they have the capacity to do that?

Tim Byles: When I was a local authority chief executive I was keen to have as much devolved to me as possible. In the report, I notice that you talk about the need to get that balance right. That needs to be judged carefully in terms of capacity and capability. In relation to BSF and the academies programme, there is a wider variation in capability and capacity in local authorities, which is why we try to tune our relationship accordingly. Some need more help and challenge than others, and some have a more comprehensive picture of where they want to go and how they will resource it than others. I am keen for authorities to have a programme for BSF that delivers effectively and is located within a broader strategy. I do not make an assessment of the Government's devolution of other schemes to them.

 

Q56 Annette Brooke: If we could look at some of the issues that came up in the previous session-you probably heard the answers. There was a question about whether there was enough post-evaluation, and you covered that in your introduction for obvious reasons. Could you tell us a little more about the post- evaluation that is taking place? Is it looking at all those issues of involving stakeholders, or indeed at energy measurement? In other words, is it going beyond value for money for the taxpayer? I feel there are a lot of dimensions that should be looked at.

Tim Byles: You are exactly right. There are a lot of dimensions. There is a sort of technical process. When people use the term post-occupancy evaluation, sometimes that is restricted to a very technical evaluation by technical assessors of the physical characteristics of the building. I am talking in a much broader sense. I am very keen that we use objective research information to plot our progress and to challenge us to develop further, as well as being clear about the ingredients that we can spread as best practice across the country.

So we look at stakeholder research. For example, Ipsos MORI has carried out quite a widespread exercise for us this year, which we published on our website, that talks about stakeholder involvement; that was an issue that your report raised last year. It measures the extent of satisfaction and participation by parents, teachers and young people in the process. I will not go through all the details for you, but there has been a very significant shift over the last 18 months in the attitudes and perceptions of involvement among stakeholders, and the recognition that the programme needs to be seen as a whole programme-ICT, building and education transformation, all together.

For example, 65% of stakeholders say that the amount of contact that they have with Partnerships for Schools is about right, 85% of stakeholders say that ICT is an integral part of the programme, and local authorities have a very high level indeed of favourable involvement at the preparation stage for BSF. So we have been checking across the stakeholder community.

We have also been talking to students and head teachers. The National Foundation for Educational Research report on Bristol Brunel Academy, which I mentioned earlier, gave some very specific details, for example about reductions in bullying, feelings of safety when at school and desire to stay on later.

I would just like to give you one or two statistics from that report. The figure for those who feel safe at school at Bristol Brunel Academy most or all of the time increased from 57% to 87 % this year. Those who felt proud of their school increased from 43% to 77%. Those who said they enjoyed going to school increased from 50% to 61%. Those who perceived that vandalism was at least a bit of a problem decreased from 84% to 33%. Those who perceived that bullying was a problem decreased from 39% to 16%. Those who expect to stay on into the sixth form or to go on to the local further education college increased from 64% to 77%.

We feel that those kinds of figures are significant measures of good progress at that particular school, which is why I am keen to chart it in other areas, as well as the academic and the sustainability points that you started with.

 

Q57 Annette Brooke: My question in the previous session was really whether Government were giving sufficient leadership. On the face of it, it sounded as if the Government were following; in other words, at individual authority level, there was the bolt-on of environmental sustainability on the transformation, which is a mix of local authority and central Government. Apart from the money, however, what are you really adding to the outcomes?

Tim Byles: There is quite a bit from us. If I just start from the beginning, when people are starting to plan their strategy for change process and starting to define the educational improvement strategy for that area, we spend quite a lot of time introducing resources that are not always available within a local authority, particularly in pupil place planning for example. It is very important for us that we have a view across an authority's area of how many pupils you will have for the next generation, in order to ensure that you have a good investment that is not too many or indeed too few places.

So there is quite a lot of input in developing the education strategy. There is quite a lot of input in the early stage about the facilities available through ICT across the curriculum. As part of our single gateway, which was another of your recommendations that the Government have picked up, we manage the contracts with 4ps for pre-engagement work for capacity building and project management skills in authorities, with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment in order to challenge and support good design as the process proceeds, and with the National College for School Leadership, which is there to ensure that head teachers and their leadership teams understand what it means to lead a project through BSF. So there is quite a bit at the early stage.

When it comes to going out to the market and engaging with the private sector, holding bidder days and starting to develop the strategy to run through what is a complex EU procurement process, we have expert project directors who are allocated to each local authority to help both to guide and to challenge that process within the local authority to the point of financial close. When the arrangement is concluded, we have, through our sister organisation, Building Schools for the Future investments, a place on the board of the operational local educational partnerships to ensure that progress is sufficient against the timetables that we have set.

There is a significant capacity constraint within local authorities in the project management area and in the negotiation and skills area. We are seeing quite a lot of movement between local authorities, so we are engaged on our own account and with 4ps in developing training and wider access to those skills so that there is sufficient out there to help to manage BSF projects. We try to target and to provide our services proportionately to the need of the local authority. We do not want to overdo it. Equally, we want to make sure that there is good progress in timing and quality for these projects.

 

Q58 Annette Brooke: It all sounds quite mechanical, and I cannot see where the innovative ideas have a chance to pop through the system. How is innovation being encouraged?

Tim Byles: We want to encourage innovation, and one way that we are finding helpful is through the engagement of young people. We use the Sorrell Foundation, through its joined-up design programme, to hold workshops, seminars and programmes that help to stimulate new ideas direct from pupils about what is important for the design of new schools. We encourage each local authority to participate in that process. We are also encouraging the design community to innovate in the way in which it produces proposals for design, and for the bidding consortium to do so as it approaches a local authority to enter into the procurement process.

I would not describe that as a mechanical process, but it is a complex process. At its core, local authorities must choose a partner who will be able to respond to their aspirations locally, to deliver something that is flexible enough to respond in different local settings even within a single local authority area, to have a good relationship with the schools and communities in which they are located, and to deliver something that is effective and provides value for money on the ground.

Chairman: We are running out of time. Paul wants to go back to something that we missed out, but need for the record. We can then get Graham to wind up.

 

Q59 Paul Holmes: What are the lessons-this is partly connected with what you have just been talking about-from the one-school pathfinders?

Tim Byles: A number. We feel that it is most effective to make investments in schools in the context of the strategy we talked about before-overall, a strategy for change. You can go in and look at a school that has a particular need and sort it out in the individual school. Unless that sits in a broader strategy, the investment, if replicated too widely, would not provide the optimum solution. One-school pathfinders have allowed areas throughout the country, where there are high-need local situations, to produce new facilities quickly. It is better to do so in a broader way that fits with the overall strategy. That is my conclusion.

We also need to make sure that the same rigour on design, sustainability and value for money applies to every investment across BSF. Some of the early one-school pathfinders did not score as highly as the schemes that are coming through now.

 

Q60 Paul Holmes: I was going to ask about that. Some of the early stories were horror stories about individual schools being taken to the cleaners by the PFI contractor, who might say, "Well, if you want these extra school activities in the evenings and at weekends, you will have to pay extra for them, and we will charge you for car parking and so on." That goes against the whole point of improving and extending school facilities. Are you saying that we have learned the lessons from that by doing whole-authority negotiations?

Tim Byles: Yes. That is important. There are two or three points to make on that. First, it was not just a function of one-school pathfinders. It was an issue historically with single-school PFI, which caused a range of problems on flexibility and value for money. However, there are some good examples of single-school PFIs which do not have those problems, so it is not just an issue in kind. The Jo Richardson community school in Barking and Dagenham is a good example of a flexible arrangement with a PFI provider. The maintenance and facilities management arrangements are managed by the school to a very high degree of value for money and flexibility through the introduction of vocational space, new special needs provision and so on. It can be done, but it is much more difficult on a single-school basis. That is why looking at the rest of the estate is so important.

What is unique about the local education partnership approach-I speak as someone who, in my previous life, was quite critical of the problems of PFI in its early years-is that it is in the business interest of the consortium to both be flexible and deliver value for money. Otherwise, they lose the exclusivity for the period, which is given by the local authority and could be for 10 years. The value for money has to increase year on year on a like-for-like basis, or the exclusivity is lost. That is the first time that I have seen PFI working in the explicit interests of the public sector as well as the private sector, and needing to demonstrate that flexibility.

Each one of our first several schools coming through the second and third wave of procurement in BSF is hitting its value for money improvements. We monitor that on an individual school basis as well as in phases and waves in BSF. Were those improvements not to be delivered, we would go to an alternative source to provide the schools in a local authority area.

 

Q61 Mr. Stuart: Tim, do you have a bonus structure for yourself, personally?

Tim Byles: Partnerships for Schools has one for me, yes.

 

Q62 Mr. Stuart: What factors determine whether you receive your bonus?

Tim Byles: The bonus is determined by a committee of PFS, and it is against our business plan targets, which are to do with the number of projects delivered through local authorities, the number of academies, the quality of them, the educational outcomes of young people, sustainability-there is no shortage of measures, I can tell you, in relation to the performance of PFS. They are published in our business plan each year. We are measured against quite a large number of performance indicators-about 60.

 

Q63 Mr. Stuart: So your personal annual bonus depends on 60 performance measures, does it?

Tim Byles: Yes, it does. It reflects the overall performance of BSF as a whole, and the people who work within BSF are measured according to the areas for which they are responsible.

 

Q64 Mr. Stuart: So in that context, what role does sustainability and the carbon footprint play? If it turns out that these schools are not delivering, will that stop you getting your bonus or not?

Tim Byles: I suspect that that would be a question of degree. There is an issue across each of the measures against which we are managed, and which we publish on our website. There is quite a large range of targets, and their proportionality is also set out in the business plan, which is publicly available: 60% is to do with delivery, 20% is to do with operating efficiencies and people-related aspects, and the remainder is to do with-

 

Q65 Mr. Stuart: It sounds incredibly complex, compared with profit or numbers.

Tim Byles: It is complex, yes. As an ex-local authority chief executive, I can say that there are significantly fewer targets than I used to have to deal with as a local authority chief executive.

 

Q66 Mr. Stuart: What hard data can you provide us with to monitor the sustainability not only of the schools that have been built to date but those that will be built, on the environmental front?

Tim Byles: On the environmental point, we monitor each school, and that information is publicly available. There are targets for the progressive improvement in sustainability, as I mentioned earlier, and we will be monitoring in each school, through its post-occupancy evaluation, how it has progressed against those targets.

 

Q67 Mr. Stuart: Do you have collective numbers-a nice easy set that we can look at?

Tim Byles: I do not have a nice easy one for you this afternoon, but as I said, we will do our first post-occupancy evaluation this autumn at Bristol Brunel, where we will be examining the results on the ground against the targets that were originally set. The Government's position has clarified through time, and for each new school we are looking at a reduction in the carbon footprint of 60%, and we are measuring that for schools from a particular point in time. I wish that it were more simple for you, and indeed for me, but it is not. When we get to 2016, we are targeting a zero-carbon position for new-build schools. For refurbished schools, of course, different issues need to be managed, because we are managing a different thing.

 

Q68 Mr. Stuart: But most of the BSF schools will at least be heavily under way by that point, 2016. Is zero carbon by 2016 a bit of a pointless promise?

Tim Byles: No, I do not think that it is pointless. All of government is committed to 2018, and BSF has been targeted to do that two years earlier. We need to work out practical and sensible ways to get to that target. In some cases, the technology is not available to us now without paying a significant premium. I am aware of a couple of schools in this country that have delivered a carbon-neutral result. We are looking at the most effective way of doing that, in urban and rural settings. It will take some time for the taskforce to finalise its recommendations in relation to that. In the meantime, we are stretching ourselves to do the best that we can with the resources available to us.

 

Q69 Mr. Stuart: One of the things we would like to understand is this. Sustainability comes off the tongue very easily. It is easy to incorporate it, and then you get to the hard measures a few years down the line and you find there has been no real change. Can you give us any picture of the BSF schools built to date? Have they reduced carbon by 60%, or was it too late for those?

Tim Byles: It is too late for those. Those that are coming through now will be delivering 60%.

 

Q70 Mr. Stuart: As of when?

Tim Byles: The announcement was last year, so schools that will be up in about 15 to 18 months from now will be delivering that total. We are measuring those to date. I have mentioned it a couple of times, but I shall mention again Bristol Brunel academy. Where we start to get real traction on sustainability is where we integrate environmental sustainability into the curriculum. We have energy meters on the walls. We have young people policing the turning off of lights and the use of ICT. That creates an upward force, in addition to having a set of targets.

To correct a point that you heard earlier, it is in the business interest of the consortium to demonstrate high sustainability and low energy use, because at the bid stage, it is measured on the extent to which that is achieved. A bid with high energy costs will be less successful than one with low energy costs.

 

Q71 Mr. Stuart: There is no problem with the bidding. At the bidding stage, you get a beautiful school that is very environmental friendly. But as it gets squeezed to the end and there are cost pressures, suddenly that high-performance, low-energy pump with a bit of capital cost is squeezed out. All the other things like that are squeezed out throughout the project.

Tim Byles: That is not our experience, although I am familiar with the kind of example you give.

 

Q72 Mr. Stuart: So can you assure us that, for instance, high- performance A-grade pumps only will be installed in BSF-

Tim Byles: No, I cannot do that, and the reason is that the decision that is taken at school and local authority level needs to fit within a framework that is about improving sustainability and gives the choice about the means of getting there to that local authority and school. I can certainly say that if that solution did not pass the sustainability hurdle of 60% carbon reduction, that would be a significant problem and it would not be approved.

 

Q73 Mr. Stuart: But at the bid stage, of course, you have a theoretical school. We have all sorts of Government targets. I think that the offices of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have seen a 32% increase in energy use since 1999, which is at complete variance with its policies. The policies are fantastic, but the reality does not match. We are worried that the schools will not match.

Tim Byles: I can understand that. I can give you one illustration that may help this afternoon. We are seeing the consortiums taking these kinds of things seriously. One of the advantages of an integrated approach between construction and ICT is that we are seeing more money coming-in at least one case I can think of, from a construction consortium-to invest in low-energy ICT precisely because that reduces the energy bill for the school and therefore reduces the unitary charge. The local authority will benefit from that. It also ensures that there is a more contained energy problem, as it were, for the facilities management provider. We are trying to create an environment in which the objectives of the provider are aligned with those of the user and the Government. That was quite an interesting example. The consortium did not have to do that. It invested in the ICT to keep the overall footprint down.

 

Q74 Mr. Stuart: Okay. The fear has to be that the bid fits with the 60% reduction but the actual school does not. What happens in that case?

Tim Byles: In the case of PFI, you are setting the price at the point of concluding the transaction. That means the risk transfer-that is why PFI is working for us in the area of new build-to the private sector is affected at that point. Let us say that facilities management is not included and energy provision is not included within that package. Even in design and build solutions, more and more that risk transfer is happening, but where it is not and the risk remains in the public sector, that creates the potential for the circumstances you have described. We are trying to design that out by creating a risk transfer to the private sector so that the bid sets the pattern for operation.

 

Q75 Mr. Stuart: Okay. You are trying to design that out. Can you just explain to us precisely how it would work? I am trying to work out and understand, in respect of the contractor-as Warren Buffett would say, it is all about incentives-exactly how it would work at that point. Can you explain that to us?

Tim Byles: If you are going for a price for the provision of a range of services to a batch of schools and you are setting that price against all the variables that are set and you deliver that through a risk transfer to the private sector, that is the point at which you have set your course. It is then in the interests of the private sector to get the cheapest possible solutions. As a former board member of Constructing Excellence, I believe that this view is shared-quite rightly-and that more people want to see whole-life costing introduced and that they do not simply want to get the purchase price right, never mind the maintenance. People are looking at it as a package. In the case of PFI, that is contained in the overall transaction and, for design and build, more and more local authorities are creating a fund locally to enable them to maintain the facilities through the life of the project. We have to keep an eye on that, because unless it is nailed down at the transaction level, it is a risk that needs to be managed.

 

Q76 Mr. Stuart: What guarantee do we have on that front? Do we have your personal guarantee that, from now on, this will be built in and there is no way that we will have-

Tim Byles: No, I cannot say "No way". I can give you examples where authorities can choose a "no way" risk-transfer solution, and I can tell you that we will be managing and measuring these issues in relation to each school.

 

Q77 Paul Holmes: May I ask the same question that I put to the two witnesses from Barnsley? When we were first looking at this matter in respect of the first report, schools we visited and evidence we got said that sustainability was squeezed out on ground of cost. The Barnsley people said that that is not happening there, because they are putting extra money in over and above what the Government provide. How do you square that with your confidence that sustainability is going to be there?

Tim Byles: I live in three worlds, as I alluded to earlier on. First, there are the early schemes-Barnsley is an example of quite an early scheme in BSF, where sustainability was not figuring as highly as it does now and the authority in Barnsley has invested more fully in some areas than other authorities early on. Secondly, there are those that we have already made changes to following on from wave 4-those authorities that have come in since November 2006-where, increasingly, sustainability has been quite specifically targeted in relation to the degree of carbon reduction that needs to be achieved for schools. That started with the announcement by Alan Johnson in spring 2007 about 60% reduction. Thirdly, we have the progress to get to the 2016 target.

There have been several moves: those in the past, where some authorities have invested more and when, frankly, sustainability was not as high up the Government's agenda as it is now; those who are coming through the system now; and those who will be getting us up to 2016.

 

Q78 Paul Holmes: So are the extra costs of achieving sustainability up front being met by taking something else out? Did you make 130 million extra available?

Tim Byles: There is additional funding being made available now-

 

Q79 Paul Holmes: But spread across all schools. That was not enough to make the difference.

Tim Byles: It is being made available for all new-build schools that hit the 60% target, and there is a calculation that generates extra money for all schools going through the system now that achieve that. The Barnsley scheme, I believe I am right in saying, was before that. I expect there to be further developments later for schemes taking us to 2016.

 

Q80 Mr. Chaytor: I want to ask about travel and transport, because it seems that, at exactly the moment when the price of oil and the impact of climate change targets is encouraging people to travel less, national education policy is assuming that young people, particularly between the ages of 14 and 19, will travel more. How is school transport and the impact of the 14-to-19 curriculum being built into the schemes that are coming forward so far? What guidelines, if any, are you issuing about how schools should account for the carbon effect of increasing travel?

Tim Byles: In-curriculum transport is not a new issue to BSF. It was a huge issue for us in Norfolk, when I was chief executive there, where moving between a secondary school in Swaffham and the further education college in King's Lynn was a regular feature of life for pupils. It is highly differentiated according to the locality that you are putting it in. The sustainability figures that I have given you are to do with the building itself and its operation. Local authorities have separate travel-to-learn plans, which take into account the sustainability cost of travel. They need to be balanced between opportunity and the sharing of curricular activities-vocational and academic-between institutions in localities, and the need to keep costs to a minimum. That balancing issue is something that local authorities manage. It is not something that we impose from BSF. We ask them to take it into account. It is a balance, and it is a challenging balance for any local authority.

 

Q81 Mr. Chaytor: Local authorities also have their own emission reductions target in their performance management frameworks. Will the carbon content of school travel have to be included in the local authority's performance indicators or will it be counted against the schools' carbon reduction calculations?

Tim Byles: That is a technical question. I do not know the answer. I am a bit out of date as a local authority chief executive. I believe that it will come at authority level and may also be measured at the school level. It certainly is not something that we take into account through our formal reporting at BSF.

 

Q82 Chairman: If you have departmental expertise, will you write a note to us on it?

Tim Byles: Indeed. Yes, we will.

 

Q83 Chairman: We have come to the end of the sitting. You live in three worlds. Does that world include speaking regularly to the schools commissioner?

Tim Byles: It does indeed. Yes, I speak to him regularly.

 

Q84 Chairman: What do you talk about?

Tim Byles: We talk about the need to balance choice and how to set that in the context of an improvement strategy for each institution in a local authority area. We meet regularly to discuss those issues. As each authority comes into BSF, we have a discussion at wave level to look at the plans of each authority to make sure that we have a pattern that meets the objectives of the schools commissioner and of the other aspects of the DCSF before commissioning the project at the remit meeting, which I chair on behalf of the Government in each local authority area. Those are the things that we discuss. The discussions centre on being sure that the improvement strategy for each school is convincing, and that a range of choice is available for young people within the local authority area.

 

Q85 Chairman: You talk regularly to Sir Bruce Liddington. Everyone knows that there is a discussion about two particular local authorities in London that are next door to each other. Everyone says that one is making a brilliant job of BSF, and that the other is making a real mess of it. How did the one authority that everyone says is making a mess get through all the hoops and get the money? What is going on?

Tim Byles: I am racking my brains about which authority you mean.

Chairman: The authorities are Greenwich and Lewisham. I shall not tell you which one is good and which one is bad. I shall leave that to your imagination.

Tim Byles: Different progress is made in those two boroughs. That is true. Their involvement with BSF considerably predates the existence of the schools commissioner, and they have adopted quite different procurement routes. I have been dealing in detail with both authorities over the past few months. A range of issues-not to do with the schools commissioner-has impacted on their progress. As it happens, both of them are starting to make good progress, but one, in particular, has had a slow start and is taking a long time.

 

Q86 Chairman: The word coming back-probably about the one with the slow start, I am not sure-was that it could not be bothered with the environmental stuff and sustainability affecting the environment.

Tim Byles: I am not seeing that. I am certainly seeing the settling of some substantial environmental factors affecting the progress of one particular school in one of those authorities. That is not because the authority is not taking the matter seriously, but because there is a need to balance the environmental regulation questions-as there is in other places. You mentioned flooding earlier.

 

Q87 Chairman: Tim, I am happy with that. How often do you talk to the building research centre?

Tim Byles: I do not talk to it frequently. Our design team is in pretty constant contact with all people engaged in building.

 

Q88 Chairman: The BRC is doing really good stuff, but on sustainable buildings-those that contain energy and use less of it. I know that such matters are not linked directly to the DCSF, but surely you should be talking to people who do the innovation.

Tim Byles: I personally do not talk to them regularly.

 

Q89 Chairman: Does anyone do so from your team?

Tim Byles: I shall confirm that. I am sure that we do on the issue of developing sustainability. I do not claim that I have a direct dealing myself.

 

Q90 Chairman: But you mention innovation quite a lot.

Tim Byles: Absolutely.

 

Q91 Chairman: As it is innovation, it might be worth sending some of your people down there.

Tim Byles: We will do so.

 

Q92 Chairman: I do not know if Graham was talking about the high-quality pumps because he has a constituency interest. I hope that he was, because it just shows that he is doing his job superbly well. Heat Exchangers, a company in my constituency, is working on such an innovation.

Tim, this has been a valuable session. As long as you are in the job, we will call you back regularly. A lot of taxpayers' money is involved. Do you still think that it is worth using all that money to refurbish buildings? Should we not stop the programme and spend more money on good science and maths teachers? Do we have the priority wrong?

Tim Byles: We should be doing both. I see an enormous improvement in the behaviour, attitude and engagement of students with whom we are working throughout the country. I certainly think that it is important to achieve a right balance between new facilities, ICT, teaching and the engagement of parents to make sure that the whole package delivers the outcomes that we are seeking. While I am pleased that we have been asked to act as a single gateway into BSF-as you recommended in your report last year-it also gives us an opportunity to influence each of those areas as well as making sure the element that is the core of our business is delivered effectively.

 

Q93 Chairman: I think that you left the community out of that.

Tim Byles: The community is an important ingredient.

Chairman: Thank you.