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Partnerships for Schools

Delivering education for the 21st Century

In February 2003, the Government announced a new capital investment programme in secondary education called Building Schools for the Future (BSF).  A unique, ambitious programme, it seeks to bring the whole secondary school infrastructure across England up to 21st century learning standards over a 15 year time frame. The emphasis of the programme is on securing dramatic improvements in educational standards across the country, driven by a state-of-the-art learning environment.  

The announcement of BSF in February 2003 and its subsequent formal launch by the Prime Minister in February 2004, were the culmination of long periods of development activity for Partnerships UK (PUK). PUK had been working with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to develop a national schools investment programme with a new delivery model for many months prior to the announcement. This built on its previous roles in developing the schools PFI market and in setting up Partnerships for Health to deliver the NHS LIFT programme.

Partnerships for Schools (PfS) was set up in 2004 to deliver the BSF programme. It is owned by DfES, but jointly managed under a joint venture arrangement between the DfES and PUK. Its key responsibilities are to

  • help local authorities develop challenging educational visions;
  • work with authorities to enable rapid development of projects, identify private sector partners for their area and negotiation of the long term strategic relationship and the project specific agreements;
  • create a standard framework within which these partnerships are to operate, and a standardised suite of documentation for this purpose;
  • manage the national programme of investment so as to secure improved infrastructure for the best value, and realise the opportunities for procurement and construction efficiencies that a programme of this scale presents;
  • and
  • to develop the processes to identify, develop and share best practice across the programme using, for example, benchmarking   and a  programme wide knowledge sharing portal. 
PUK and DfES will also invest across the country in the local partnerships to continuously spread best practice and challenge the quality of infrastructure procured through these partnerships.  

Local authorities have a long history of contracting with the private sector for the provision of services. However, this programme requires the private sector to engage with its local authority partner at the strategic level, to understand their aspirations for secondary education.  They are then tasked with developing appropriate capital projects - by designing new buildings, refurbishments, provision of technology, and maintenance services - that will deliver the educational strategy and learning environment that the local authority and school users are looking for. Spread over ten years, this is also a long term partnership, involving the procurement of an entire local programme of investment through a single procurement, saving time, costs and money for all parties concerned. 

PfS has established itself quickly, putting in place a team of educationalists, procurement specialists, programme managers and commercial experts to work with local authorities in developing and delivering their local programmes.   It is expected that three phases of investment covering over 35 local authorities will be completed over the first three years.

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