Day 43 – The real cost of BSF

From the Daily Mail, Thursday 11 June 2009

A consultant cost £ 1.35million for three years’ work on the Government’s troubled school rebuilding programme, a report reveals today. The adviser from accountants KPMG charged on average £450,000 a year for providing ‘corporate finance services’ on the Building Schools for the Future scheme (BSF).

The programme began in 2003 with the aim to rebuild half of all secondary schools, re-model just over a third and refurbish the rest.
But today’s report, by the Commons public accounts committee, reveals how its costs have spiralled from £45billion to £55billion because of delays and inappropriate spending on outside ‘experts’.

More than £11million has been spent on private consultants just to establish the programme – despite the fact the department had set up a quango to run it, Partnerships for Schools.

KPMG’s £450,000 annual fee alone would have been enough to hire 65 new teachers and staff an entire secondary school.

Just 42 of the planned 200 schools were rebuilt in the first four years of the scheme, up to December 2008, putting it three years behind schedule.

The report said ministers had ‘wasted public money by relying on consultants to make up for shortfalls in its own skills and resources’. ‘Poor planning has heightened expectations and created disappointment,’ it added. ‘Instead of employing someone directly on a fulltime basis, it became dependent on a single consultant, and ended up paying £1.35million to KPMG over three years for this person.’

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said: ‘We’ve never been complacent about BSF. BSF is a completely unprecedented project, not a race to spend money.’ Tory schools spokesman Nick Gibb said: ‘We need a Government that gets proper value for taxpayers’ money, not one that squanders public money through its incompetence.’

When “readiness to deliver” has been spoken of (see Day 37 of this blog) perhaps we should remember that improving an existing system is immediately ready to deliver, assuming the guys in suits have a Plan B ready…

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3 Responses to Day 43 – The real cost of BSF

  1. Leodis says:

    When you add into this the other local factors it is very worrying!
    1) At the meeting last night it was reiterated that it was not a ‘done deal’ to change and that the funding was not dependent on changing the system. HOWEVER, if there is no plan ready to show the ‘readiness to deliver’ under three tier from the borough it calls into question the reality of the ‘done deal’ statement.
    2) It was also said that there would be no change if no money is forthcoming – that I believe, BUT, what if the project is started with funds and then perhaps, a general election, causes the money to dry up from Central Government – there is no way that the borough could stop a programme part way through. Assurances that once it is signed any government of any party will ensure projects are fulfilled do not satisfy me I’m afraid. We live in unprecedented times and colleges and schools with REAL, PLANNED and DESIGNED developments have recently had those shelved because funds from another government pot with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has dried up – Bedford College is a local example of this. Surely it is better to plan WITHIN the current system to ensure if projects have to be scaled back they can be.
    3) Within this money and even last night there was no clear statement of where the majority of primary school funding is going to come from. The reality is at present the allocation for Bedford Borough from the Primary Capital Programme is £3.7m, yet the consultation document says they HOPE to get £5-£10m (presumably from the 2001-14 spending round) which is going to be at a time of nationally contracting budgets. In addition it could cost the local taxpayer between zero and £30m. £60m to redevelop and rebuild 60 primaries and £340m for 8 uppers! I don’t think the sums add up!

    By the way – where is Frank Branston, if it is potentially a Mayoral and cabinet decision, he has an obligation to attend such meeting to hear the questions and concerns, and why has he not identified a cabinet member for Education? Perhaps no-one wants the job until after the last public consultation meeting!

  2. Michael Headley says:

    By my calculation (using the council’s budget assumptions) if there is the £30m borrowing for Primary Schools that would need a 3.5% increase in council tax over 25 years.

    But it is worse than this in the short term because the council will have to borrow money to bridge the period from building the new schools to being able to sell off the old sites. Who knows how long that could be. During that time there would need to be a 4.5% increase in council tax to cover that borrowing.

    In the current economic climate I’m just not sure how the Mayor thinks he can find this money.

    The worst case scenario is that they start the project and then realise they can’t afford it. I do think that lower/primary schools should be very concerned.

  3. jonathan parsons says:

    this is one for all our councillers and our invisable mayor

    Even Professor Kate Jacques, pro-vice chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and a long-time advocate of the two tier system admits: “Parents like middle schools. It means their children can be in a primary school environment for longer. And pupils like it because while they are at middle school the pressure isn’t on.”

    So what is driving the two tier campaign? Poor exam results, particularly in Bedford and Kempston.
    Bedfordshire has been under-performing in GCSEs for years and the present three tier system is being used to explain why Bedfordshire is below the national average.

    County’s view is that it is not a problem with the schools, but a problem with the three-tier system. Not that all schools performing below the national average are three tier – far from it. But that fact seems to have escaped their notice.

    If the change takes place and schools in Bedford and Kempston continue to perform badly the mere fact of the change itself can be used to defend the local educational establishment from blame in two ways.
    Firstly, the change shows that “something is being done.”

    Secondly, the process of change is known to damage the education of the children caught up in it, so it will be “too soon to make an informed judgment.”
    There is also a false impression that Bedfordshire and the Isle of Wight are the only education authorities to still run this three tier system – as reported by Luton Today on 1st May – and are behind the times in doing so.

    Currently England has 315 middle schools including 32 in Harrow; 23 in Worcestershire; 19 in West Sussex; 14 in Staffordshire and 14 in Dorset. None of these face closure.

    And middle schools are increasingly common in the US, rising from just over 2,000 middle schools in 1970-71 to just over 12,000 in 2002-03. as best i can work out 2005-06 14,000 and results ar steadly climbing

    If the structure is winning hearts and minds in the US, why are we rushing headlong in the other direction? Blaming the system doesn’t hold water. As a result of the Newcastle Commission we now know more about the relative importance of LEAs in changing the attainment level of pupils.

    Professor Peter Tymms of the Curriculum Evaluation and Management Centre, Durham University says, “The quantitative analyses concluded that by far the most important part of the educational system is the teachers and that the most important thing an LEA can do is to enhance the quality of teaching in the classroom.”

    County cannot escape responsibility. The children are failing only after the County has failed to support adequately the schools and the teachers. The £100 million earmarked to make the change in Bedford and Kempston will go a long way to financing a more imaginative initiative than moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. Isn’t it time to stop, think again and find a better way to spend £100 million in support of education in Bedford

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