Gove is giving £800m capital funding to academies this June -- but leaving LA schools to crumble

Francis Gilbert's picture
This appears to have snuck under the radar: Gove is giving £800 million for various academy projects this June. I found out by looking at the British Council for School Environments website, which is eagerly advertising this news to various architects and designers.

This is big money for those in the "know". The website says:

"There will be 71 schemes and they will be tendered to the 15 contractors on the existing Academies framework. The remainder of the projects will be tendered over the next 18 months.

The schemes will be divided into £250m worth of work (28 schemes) in the North, and £550m (43 schemes) worth in the South. The first two schemes to come to market, worth £25m, will be in Bolton and Brighton.

It is expected that work on the University Technical Colleges and studio schools would also be procured through the framework.

The Government are looking for the procurement process on the schemes to be as fast as possible. This would be in line with recommendations in the Sebastian James review. They are looking to the recent Campsmount Project in Doncaster, which halved the usual procurement process, as the target.

Commenting on the news, Ty Goddard, director of the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) said:

“This is good news for everyone working in the sector. It’s a solid boost for schools and businesses. This also shows Michael Gove is picking up the pace of his academies policy.”

But does beg the question, what about the LA schools who were hoping for all that BSF funding to stop their buildings from crumbling to bits? It appears that LA schools are being starved of cash while a select few are benefiting very considerably. It's shockingly unfair.

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Ian Fordham's picture
Tue, 17/05/2011 - 22:31

Thanks for the plug for our website Francis. But in your desire to point out our 'eagerness to advertise' the opportunity you clearly didn't see that our organisation has been set up for the past 5 years by schools and local authorities as well as those working in the corporate sector - and have been campaigning and advocating for better and fairer investment long before it became a 'fashionable issue' and helping the very same LAs and schools understand how best to make the most of the resources they have. Fiona will also know this well having been invited to speak to our national conference in manchester. A bit of extra research or a contact with us would be great in the future....

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 17/05/2011 - 22:47

Ian, I wasn't aiming to criticise your organisation, I was trying to point out that the funding £800m for academies seems unfair when LA schools are excluded: this is the government's policy, not yours. If I'm wrong on this count, please correct me. And yes, I would be interested in talking to you further. :)

Ian Fordham's picture
Tue, 17/05/2011 - 23:15

Sure - it just came across as a criticism when we have put our members interests at the heart of all our work. We have to be pretty pragmatic about policy and funding decisions having lived through times of plenty and now in times of austerity. And of course happy to chat - I'll be at the festival of education if we don't catch up sooner...

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 07:07

Ian - Surely the point here is not whether Francis mis-represented you but that fact that academies now get more preferential revenue funding and first call on school capital budgets. A clear two tier system is developing, to which Francis was right to draw attention I enjoyed speaking at your conference, however I am sure I am not alone in wishing that some organisations, like yours and PfS, appeared to remember occasionally that the majority of schools in this country are NOT academies and free schools. There are children in those schools who surely deserve an equal share of what is currently a very small pie.

Ian Fordham's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 09:53

Fiona - it IS actually quite a point when what Francis is suggesting is that there are 'eager architects and designers' who are waiting to hoover up work - and reputation and clarity of who we are is important to us ie we were set up and indeed led by schools, LAs and the private sector. But then your final comment lump us in with PfS and 'organisations like us' (we are independent, receive no govt funding and are an ed charity) who bizarrely you think don't remember that the majority of schools are not academies. Are you serious?. There is no other organisation that has put themselves on frontline for years pushing for investment in schools generally and in the school estate and campaigning for greater freeing up resource to go to schools, even when politically this was not what government or govt quangos wanted to hear. To question our understanding of this issue is hugely demeaning and a bit of a cheap shot

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 10:39

Of course there are eager architects and designers waiting to hoover up work - I know quite a few and don't blame them at all. They had the rug pulled out from under them when BSF was axed. I don't think you should feel defensive about that. It is also understandable that organisations like yours, and PfS will follow the money. My point is that the money is being distributed unfairly and that is a view shared by many who contribute to this site. The James Review was promised by the end of last year. It came four months late. I don't hold out much hope of seeing a reply from Government in the near future, judging by Gove's existing record. That means the majority of schools that had their capital funding axed at the last minute will continue to wait for news about how they are to fund investment in their IT and buildings while some favoured projects get singled out for special treatment.

Ian Fordham's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 10:50

You are saying all of this as if we don't know the implications of the cuts in funding. We, unlike LSN, have had to directly and literally pick up the pieces of schools, LAs and companies who have been directly affected by the cuts and it is our key area of work - not a sideline as it is for you. It might sound defensive but there are a lot of livelihoods and families directly affected by what happens across the sector. And our task has been one of continuously making the case and getting people back on their feet to navigate this new landscape. And please, please do not to connect us with PfS - as if a £20m funded govt quango who is charged with delivering policy is the same as a small independent charity with less than 4 staff who relies on an industry that's really struggling.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 11:28

I am sitting here looking at the now shelved BSF plan for the school where I chair the governing body. We are trying to pick up the pieces directly in a school with real children in it, who now will not get the buildings they were promised. All our neighbouring schools are similarly affected.

This isn't really about cuts, it is about fair distribution of resources. The new landscape, which you understandably have to navigate, is unfair. I am pleased to hear you are making the case ( to government?) for the rest of us. It would be good if you could post something on the site about how you are doing that.

Alex's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 11:48

What I want to know is how my school can get a share of this unequal distribution before it runs out. We are not an Academy, but it is under consideration - mainly because this seems to be the best way to get on the funding bandwagon... I'm sure that there are thousands like us, who fear that by the time we get on board (for financial not ideological reasons), the golden goose will have stopped laying.

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