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Schools: Private Finance Initiative

Volume 459: debated on Monday 30 April 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations his Department has received from (a) schools and (b) local authorities on concerns about private finance initiative contracts with schools; and what meetings have taken place at a departmental level on this issue. (134451)

The Department works directly with schools and authorities, and also with and through a range of bodies, including HM Treasury, Partnerships UK, Partnerships for Schools and the 4ps, to understand and address the concerns that schools and authorities may have from time to time about private finance initiative contracts for schools. Our aim is to ensure that schools get from private finance initiative contracts the excellent service they deserve. Private finance initiatives were introduced for schools in 1998, and contacts with authorities, schools and with other bodies have been a part of the everyday work of the Department since then.

In 2005, we published a report which we commissioned from Partnerships UK on operational schools private finance initiative contracts, which is available at www.teachernet.gov.uk/docbank/index.cfm?id=9262. This report found that, on balance, contracts were operating successfully across most of their provision, and that there were some strong examples of good delivery. It made suggestions for improvements, all of which had already been, or subsequently were, acted upon. Further, we have worked with HM Treasury to enable Partnerships UK to act as a taskforce helpdesk for schools which have concerns or difficulties with their private finance initiative contracts. Department officials also continue to work directly with schools and authorities where needed.

In the past year, directly or through Partnerships UK and other bodies, representations have included benchmarking and market testing; support during the transition to operational status; variations to contract; dispute resolution and poor performance; availability of other schools capital funding; schools changing status while in a PFI contract. Officials also recently met the Association of Schools and College Leaders to discuss a similar range of issues.