Archive 2016 10

Education Lees Brook Community College Building their way to the top of the class The Government’s Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) is addressing schools most in need of repair. Claire Cameron looks at the latest projects and gives an overview of construction activity in the sector PRIME Minister Theresa May’s promise to build a school system that works for everyone could be good news for the construction industry. With a vision for a meritocratic Britain, May says, “We need to ensure that there is a good school place for every child, and education provision that caters to the individual needs and abilities of every pupil,” and this means “not just more school places but more good school places, not just more new schools but more good new schools catering to the needs and abilities of each individual child – are designed to spread opportunity across society.” According to The Construction Market Report, which was published in February, construction in the UK education sector remains strong, representing around 11 per cent of total new build output. And with the Government already pledging to invest £12.7 billion in education projects by 2020, May’s plans to create schools fit for the 21st Century could well see further growth in the sector, which has already been boosted by the introduction of the Priority School Building Programme. Now in its second phase, the Government’s flagship rebuilding scheme was launched in 2011 to replace the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. It www.builderandengineer.14 co.uk aims to address schools most in need of repair. More than £4 billion was invested in the first phase with 260 schools benefiting, while a further £2 billion was allocated to another 277 as part of the second phase in February last year. Managed by the Education Funding Agency (EFA), the contractors’ framework was launched in November 2013 with Balfour Beatty, BAM, Bowmer & Kirkland, Carillion, Galliford Try, Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine, Thomas Vale, Wates and Willmott Dixon all able to bid for projects. And by waving goodbye to drafty classrooms, tired décor and unreliable boilers, “the PSBP programme is a saviour to many schools”, says Jon Kiteley, BAM’s programme manager, who has recently completed the rebuilding of Lees Brook Community College in Derby. Having been denied an upgrade in 2011 when BSF was halted, the college gained capital funding from the PSBP in 2012. “A few months later, we at BAM Construction were in a two-horse race to design the new school, for a much reduced budget,” explains Kiteley. And the stakes were high because the successful bidder secured the ‘Midlands 2’ Lees Brook Community College batch of four schools worth £28 million. “Each design and build team started with a blank sheet of paper and each week would consult the school to ensure they got what they wanted and needed for the funding available,” he says. “Everyone could see what the past and present looked like as we sat in the existing 1960s school buildings with leaky windows, peeling paint and temperamental M&E.” And it’s this part of the EFA’s procurement process that is perhaps one of the industry’s biggest success stories, admits Kiteley. “When managed well the consultative process that takes place with builder and designer sat with the school is brilliant at managing expectations, understanding the end user and crucially designing within a budget. It’s not always plain sailing or simple, but it works,” he says. “In an age of austerity the PSBP programme shows that you can have high quality education buildings for a budget.” The work at Lees Brook included incorporating a new main building with extended sports hall, while also maintaining other existing buildings. “The blend of new and old fits into the site well and improves on the BSF days of full scale rebuilding and demolition,” says Kiteley. Jon Kiteley

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