Government Set To Announce BSF Cuts

Education Secretary Michael Gove is set to announce later today that up to 700 Building Schools for the Future projects will be cut, in a move that is said will save the Education Department around £1billion a year for the next 5 years

A Department for Education spokesman said, ‘Ministers have been clear that BSF has not delivered good value for money and that the programme is beset by delays and red tape.’

Stoke-on-Trent is using the BSF programme to rebuild the citys ageing high schools in what was the biggest national school building project since the Victorian era.

Stoke-on-Trent currently has 6 outline planning applications for academies approved:

  • A new BESD Trent Vale
  • Academy replacement for Brownhills
  • Academy replacement for Blurton High School
  • A new school to replace Thistley Hough
  • Academy to replace James Brindley High School
  • Extension to Haywood High

It is not clear what criteria is being used to decide which BSF projects are to be cut. We believe that Michael Gove will allow only 500 BSF schools to continue as these are at an ‘advanced stage’ and the government are keen to not fall foul of any break clauses in contracts which mean they would have to pay a percentage of the contract value to cancel.

In February, Stoke-on-Trent City Council signed an “overarching agreement” with Balfour Beatty and Thomas Vale/Wates, which confirms both sides’ financial commitment to the projects at BESD at Trent Vale and the Haywood refurbishment. Work is expected to start as early as November this year.

As these two contracts are now what is termed ‘financial close’ they may be safe from any cuts made today, but the rest of the Stoke-on-Trent High Schools could be left in limbo.

Rob Flello MP for Stoke-on-Trent South has been making representations in support of Stoke-on-Trent & the BSF program. On June 7 he asked Education Secretary Michael Gove, ‘May I urge the Secretary of State to look carefully at the situation in Stoke-on-Trent and to try to give us some certainty about ensuring that we get the much-needed and much-deserved BSF programme through?’

Michael Gove replied, ‘we have been, and are, looking very sympathetically at the case for specific additional spending in Stoke.’

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt also attacked the proposed cuts when speaking on the Today program on Radio 4, saying, ‘We have only this week a real fear that in Stoke on Trent Central £250m allocated for building schools for the future by good Labour government is under threat from Michael Gove and the department for education to fund these vanity projects for yummy mummies in West London and underemployed professionals to set up their Swedish schools.’

We will bring you more on this and the impact on Stoke-on-Trent once the announcement is made by Michael Gove.