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The private sector's key role in ensuring PSBP's success

Craig Smailes, Project Director for Education at Kajima Partnerships, discusses the Priority School Building Programme

Posted by Lucinda Reid | December 21, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

The last six years have seen a significant shift in the approach to the delivery of new schools, and how the development and construction is prioritised and funded.  The aging educational estate and ongoing demand for additional school spaces constrained by public finances have driven the Conservative Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP). Launched in 2011, PSBP was designed to assess and prioritise those school buildings in the worst state of repair, and replace them with efficient, modern premises, which some critics have condemned as resulting in smaller, standardised schools lacking identity.

But does standardisation and cheaper buildings necessarily mean compromising on creative design? Can schools be built on a budget but still foster and promote learning? And what role does the private sector have in delivering a more effective, efficient schools building programme, not only as the main development contractor, but also as a funding partner and long term steward of the buildings?

Following the perceived lavishness of the Labour Government’s £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme, the PSBP is harnessing the expertise of the design and construction industry to deliver schools that, while slightly smaller and more standardised than their BSF counterparts, nonetheless create welcoming flexible teaching environments that harness new technology and are efficient to operate.

Clever use of day lighting, natural ventilation, acoustic treatments and colour can all contribute to a well-designed classroom. It should be noted the under PSBP guidelines minimum classroom sizes have been protected  and much of the reduction in the size of schools has, in practice, come from efficiently designed circulation and in peripheral educational spaces such as less used communal and breakout areas.  

But does standardisation and cheaper buildings necessarily mean compromising on creative design? Can schools be built on a budget but still foster and promote learning?

In Private Finance funded projects, following construction completion and occupation, the Contractor remains fully engaged both in the immediate term - to ensure that the school is fully functioning and operational - and for up to 25 years in the longer-term.  This ensures that, even at the initial design stage, the developer has a vested interest in delivering an easily maintained, sustainable building.

As well as the school buildings themselves, standardisation has been applied to the procurement process for PSBP.  A single procuring authority with one set of overarching requirements has meant that the pre-contract process is repeatable, resource efficient and less resource hungry and with fewer project specific changes, to the benefit of both the public and private partners. 

With capital investment totalling £4.4bn to date, the first wave of 260 schools are expected to be handed over by the end of 2017.  As the second phase of the project to rebuild or refurbish another 277 schools continues – set to complete in 2021 - so too will the close collaboration between the public sector and its private sector contractors.  By continuing to work closely together these parties can deliver exceptional new schools that will help prepare thousands of young people for life in modern Britain. It is vital that these embedded relationships are maintained with further continuity guaranteed in the future procurement pipeline.  

Case study: Kajima and Kings Langley School

In 2004, Kajima and investment partner Interserve, were awarded the contract for the first batch of PSBP (PF2) schools in Hertfordshire, Luton and Reading – HLR Schools. In September 2016, the first of seven secondary schools, the newly built Kings Langley School, was handed over.

The Kings Langley School is an excellent example of Kajima’s strong experience in the education sector being put to good use, designing and delivering high-quality, efficient and modern accommodation that meets the strict facility and operational requirements of the Educational Funding Agency.

The newly built three-story King Langley School is a state-of-the-art secondary school, designed to enhance the learning environment for pupils. Responding to existing site constraints and delivered within tighter budgets, reducing ongoing operational costs were a key consideration that were achieved through passive environmental solutions such as natural daylight and ventilation and a thermally efficient building envelope.  

The design and construction undertaken of the Kings Langley School has served as the template for the design and development of a further six schools within the project. A host of standard design principles and best practice construction techniques have been adopted across the batch to embed efficient layouts, minimise resource, improve quality and deliver educational facilities that will stand the test of time.  

Kajima Partnerships has a strong reputation for delivering state-of-the-art schools at both primary and secondary level that are at the heart of their local communities. These schools provide facilities that are a joy to occupy, enrich the pupil environment whilst helping to improve both academic results and attendance levels. Kajima’s expertise lies in innovatively designed school facilities that are a model for development in the education sector.

For more information, please visit their website.                       

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