Initial reaction to the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme focused on the potential impact to the teaching resources. But the building industry now considers the cancellation of the programme to have hidden benefits.
Although the cancellation of the £55bn scheme was a result of the economic situation and change of government, Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for Education lost no time in demolishing the scheme. a greater shock was the £600 million that had been spent in design and development consultation for the new schools. He said the scheme was characterised by “Massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy.” Clearly not a fan.
Many dilapidated, and locally, a burnt out shell of a School were the subject of cancelled rebuilds. Head teachers, parents and to some extent children wailed and gnashed their teeth. But realistically they were not alone. Clearly the managing directors of the contractors involved are evidently concerned by the financial impact, but once the dust had settled many people involved with the BSF programme realised the size of the problems it was generating.
Schools involved suddenly found head teachers, school governors, teachers and some parents were thrust into decisions considerably outside their areas of expertise. The combination of different contractors, local conditions and varying educational mindsets ensured every scheme was unique. With circa 700 schools involved in the rebuild the duplication of effort was enormous.
Complex documentation required a huge investment in time and energy by the educational team to fully understand the process. Time effectively lost to the schooling process that the BSF scheme was ironically trying to improve.
It will be almost impossible to design a common repair format to existing Schools. All have design foibles. But it is entirely feasible to develop a range of national modular school designs that can be mixed and matched locally to establish a new school. The economies of scale would reduce costs and the government investment would have greater impact. It could become more viable to replace an entire school than complete significant repairs to a time expired facility. Certainly it would be better investment than the vast waste of time and effort that “reinvents the wheel” for every school.