Education remains a key sector not only to the UK construction industry, but to the future prosperity of the UK. It is essential to nurture our young people to become an educated and diverse resource to build our future prosperity and competitiveness. Furthermore, our universities continue to be leading institutions for world renowned research and academic leadership. In financial terms construction accounts for approximately 10% (c£90bn) of the UK GDP. Education construction spend represents approximately 17% (£12bn) of this with Schools and Colleges representing 65% (£8bn) and Universities 35% (£4bn)
The education sector has had a bumpy ride in the past decade with 7 of the years seeing a decline and only two significant growth years in 2013 and 2014. Since 2016 the Universities sector, has felt the uncertainty of BREXIT. The Department of Education remain the sectors biggest client, which is set to grow further if the recent Augar report is adopted.
The report sets out a vision for an increasingly diverse post age 16 education landscape with a greater stepped academic attainment through the education levels-
- Level 3 ‘A’ level
- Level 4 Btec HNC,
- Level 5 Foundation degree and
- Level 6 degree.
Currently the traditional route is Level 3 attainment through ‘A’ level, followed with a jump to university to attain a level 6 full degree. Augar is advocating a ‘lifelong’ approach to learning which is increasingly flexible and adaptable to a changing employment horizon. To aid this transition the reports recommends a £1bn investment in further education colleges over the next spending review round, some of which has been released under the interim expenditure commitments. An alternative to the traditional ‘A’ level route is also being trialed. The new ‘T’ (Technical) level route is set for trial from September 2020.
Spending on schools has changed over the last year with increasing proportions of the Department of Education budget going to secondary schools. The sector split overall is approximately Secondary schools 34%, Primary schools 13% and University / Colleges 28%. The remaining 25% being shared between Special Schools, nurseries etc. The expected trend is for a shift between primary to secondary as it will follow the pupil number ‘bulge’ as that cohort move through the education system.
The overriding economic headline for sector is one of change, which is resulting in the construction sector output reducing / flat lining until 2020 / 2021 a trend that started in 2017. Given the size and importance of the sector, school investment is likely to remain with the Universities and Colleges possible feeling the ‘wind of change’ a little harder due to Brexit and Augar. However, depending on the final acceptance of Augar it could be a split story between FE Colleges and University Institutions.
The Department for Education (DFE) have maintained funding commitments across their key programs (Priority Schools Building Program (PSBP), Free Schools, Academisation, Capital Improvement Funding and devolved formula capital allocations, however with planning harder to achieve and land cost rising, progress in some areas has been challenging. The PSBP2 programme seeks to mitigate these issues as it focuses on expansions rather than new builds.
The DFE commitment to Free Schools is still high with an additional £320m being allocated for 140 additional free schools in the 2017 Autumn Budget. These additional sites are starting to be allocated to the department’s delivery partners.
The level of investment in the school's sector remains high, however there is still a reported c£14bn investment required to bring the existing school stock to a good condition rating from its current condition. The DFE are well advanced with their Schools Building Survey Program and the returned data will support an updated view. However, compare the £14bn estimated investment required to the current c£2bn p/a investment in Condition Improvement and condition allocation, there is still investment to be made over the foreseeable future.
The DFE have always shown themselves to be driving improvement and delivering value for money. This continues to be the case with their move to modular / volumetric school designs and they have now moved even further along the Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) initiative with their component school designs. DFE suppliers appointed to the new contractor frameworks will have to embrace these new Modern Methods of Construction to deliver on the departments cost and time expectations, which will be increasingly pressurised. This is important given the need for a projected 420,000 additional places by 2021. Progress on this is discussed at the following link Faithful+Gould Offsite Construction for Schools
The Augar report has sent a clear message that a lifelong learning path should be the aspiration for growing numbers of young people. Stepping through the education ‘Levels’ below a Level 6 full degree. Therefore, the Government’s commitment to trialing the Technical (T Level) education curriculum will be a good test for Further Education Colleges chosen to trial the qualification. Around 50 'T Level' providers have been selected to pilot the programme in September 2020. Initial subjects chosen for this level are Construction, Digital and Childcare.
Technical colleges have started to review requirements in terms of estate and teaching to accommodate the new requirements. This may lead to funding and building requirements for providers to meet the T Level aspirations in coming years. The Augar report proposed an additional £1bn should be made available to colleges over the next Spending Review (SR) period. As public departments draft their budget requirements for a new Spending Review round, education will remain an important sector for investment.
In 2019 Wales saw a 4.9% increase in construction activity in the education sector, however this was tempered by the value of educational starts falling by 24%. Amongst the largest projects started or awarded were a £34m project at Cardiff University and a £22m development at Bridgend College.
The Welsh Government Education Band A projects are now mostly complete with councils commencing their Band B projects which are estimated to be in the region of £2.3bn. The Welsh Governments Strategy for 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050 and the new Welsh curriculum, to be rolled out in schools from 2022, is placing additional pressures on local authorities to increase the provision for Welsh language places within schools. This is driving a need for the review of education strategies that need to focus on ensuring an efficient delivery model for both English and additional future Welsh provision which is anticipated to grow significantly.
The Band B 21st Century Schools programme has become the focus for the Welsh Government’s policy on Project Bank Accounts in an aim to promote best practice to the public sector bodies in Wales. Effective from the 1st of January 2018, but now coming into force as a condition of Band B funding, all contracts fully or partly funded by the Welsh Government with a project value of £2m or more will be required to have a project bank account.
Currently a procurement exercise, known as the Mutual Investment Model (MIM) is underway for the Welsh Government to establish and appoint a private sector partner to deliver an estimated (£510m) of education projects made up of schools and colleges throughout Wales.
Through the MIM initiative a private partner will build and maintain public assets. In return, the Welsh Government will pay a fee to the private partner, which will cover the cost of construction, maintenance and financing the project. At the end of the contract the asset will be transferred into public ownership.
Maintaining the Quality of School Places
The Department for Education produce design guides to drive consistency in delivered school design standards. Space, light, air quality and aesthetics all play a big part in supporting the wellbeing and engagement of students and staff alike.
The Priority School Building Program (PSBP) is now well into its second-generation framework, with the third program framework due for tender and re-let in 2020. The program seeks to make the best use of existing schools through extension and re-modelling and school place expansion with the construction of new sites. The program has a focus on secondary school facilities and is increasingly looking for the program to support key central Government initiatives of Modern Methods of Construction and Net Zero (Carbon) projects.
The Department for Education PSBP is large with enough clout to drive efficiencies and engage supply chains in the adoption of these new ways of working. These can also have a positive effect on other Government programs where these techniques can be deployed and fits into the wider efficiency aspirations of the Cabinet Office Transforming Infrastructure Efficiencies Strategy
Building Programme 2
Faithful+Gould has been delivering post contract multi-disciplinary services for the Department for Education’s PSBP2 since the start of 2018.
PSBP2 comprises the second phase of a Government programme set up to address the needs of Schools in need of major rebuilding or refurbishment. Through the second phase of the programme, 277 Schools will be rebuilt or have their needs met by the Department for Education (DfE). All the schools within the programme will be delivered by the end of 2021.
In December 2019 we successfully met the completion date for High Tunstall School, Newcastle. This is just one of the 38 schools our teams are working on across the country.
The £18.5m High Tunstall School scheme involved the construction of a new-build teaching block comprising of a wide range of facilities zoned around a central dining space, main hall and library resource centre, as well as a new sports hall and various specialist teaching spaces
The building and site had been carefully planned to ensure that the School could remain fully operational throughout the construction, whilst ensuring that there was clear separation between the building works and operational school.
Faithful+Gould successfully managed the integration and co-ordination between various ICT, FF&E and School direct works.
Benefits of the new teaching block include:
- Provision of new state-of-the-art education facilities.
- An attractive learning environment with high quality, modern technology dining facilities.
- Optimises the re-use of previously developed Brownfield land with minimal impact upon the neighbouring Green belt designation.
- A building in keeping with the School’s ethos to pursue academic excellence and student happiness.
- A sensitively managed construction process designed to minimise impact to local residents.
Rooms are ventilated using Gilberts’ innovative MFS unit, which pioneered the concept of hybrid ventilation in multi-occupancy rooms such as classrooms, a concept recognised as a valid strategy by the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
A single MFS unit with LTHW coil and boost facility features as part of the window in the external façade of each classroom to ensure the teaching space is ventilated and heated as a stand-alone solution. Standardisation of the architectural detailing of each window means a standard MFS unit can be used across all the school batches, reducing costs and simplifying installation. The strategic positioning of each unit ensures the wall and ceiling achieve the “coanda effect” to provide the correct air movement and comfort conditions.