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Partnerships for Schools

Volume 494: debated on Friday 19 June 2009

Building Schools for the Future is helping transform secondary school infrastructure in England, providing world-class teaching and learning environments for pupils, teachers and communities. Since the programme was established, more than £3 billion of funding has been committed to rebuilding and renewing the estate, with over 75 schools now benefiting from this investment. Around a third of all secondary schools are now involved in the programme.

In 2004, the Department created Partnerships for Schools to manage the programme centrally and support local authorities in local implementation. The funding and management of Partnerships for Schools has been carried out under a joint venture between the Department and Partnerships UK. Partnerships UK was set up to help the Government deliver improvements in public services particularly where major infrastructure renewal programmes are involved.

Through the joint venture, Partnerships UK has made a significant contribution to the successful delivery of Building Schools for the Future by providing strategic, commercial, programme and project management expertise, and in the early years secondment of key staff. Since 2006 Partnerships UK has also been supporting Partnerships for Schools in the construction of new academies. As the National Audit Office pointed out in its recent report on “Building Schools for the Future” (published on 12 February 2009), “the effect [of the joint venture arrangement] has been to engender top level attention to BSF in PUK, and greater in-depth support and commitment”, and this has been crucial in establishing the programme.

Following the success in setting up these programmes, and recognising Partnerships for Schools’ increasing maturity as an organisation and the plans to enlarge their remit later this year, the Department and Partnerships UK have reviewed the governance arrangements for Partnerships for Schools and have agreed that it is no longer necessary for Partnerships UK to engage as intensively as through the joint venture, which was focused on Building Schools for the Future. It has therefore been agreed to bring the joint venture to an end.

Going forward, Partnerships UK will maintain an active involvement in the delivery of Building Schools for the Future and other capital programmes by continuing to provide support through an existing alternative contractual basis rather than through the joint venture. As part of the new arrangements, the chief executive of Partnerships UK will be an ex officio board member and director of Partnerships for Schools, and the finance director of Partnerships UK an ex officio observer to the board.

As a result of the termination of the joint venture the Department is paying Partnerships UK an amount of £22.4 million. This sum repays Partnerships UK for its share of the funding of the joint venture plus a return on that investment. The return remunerates Partnerships UK for interest on its investment, the risks associated, and the support and commitment to the programmes provided to date.