Procurement for school expansion projects ‘not good enough’ - headteacher

Renovated PE changing rooms at The Weald School in Billingshurst SUS-160622-144251001
Renovated PE changing rooms at The Weald School in Billingshurst SUS-160622-144251001

A Billingshurst headteacher has criticised the way education building projects are procured in the same week as a large part of his school’s £11m expansion was approved by planners.

An application for a new stand-alone three-storey teaching and dining block at The Weald School was approved by West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Headteacher at The Weald School in Billingshurst

Headteacher at The Weald School in Billingshurst

Peter Woodman, headteadcher at The Weald, said the new facilities would be a ‘real asset for the school’.

But he argued that if the project was managed by the school directly, rather than being awarded through WSCC’s procurement framework, it could cut costs by around 25 per cent as well as building it quicker and with less disruption.

Mr Woodman said: “We’re tied by their procurement methods. It’s unfortunate there is not greater freedom for schools to self-manage even big projects themselves and get so much better value for money, and either build more or some money is freed up for other schools.”

He added: “It’s anti-competitive, they don’t use local builders. It’s not good enough.”

As chair of the West Sussex Secondary Headteachers’ Association he has raised the ‘frustrations’ of the school’s staff and governors with the county council on several occasions.

He explained that smaller projects had been completed by the school using an ‘excellent’ West Sussex contractor. These included an extension to drama facilities, two new science labs, and renovations to the PE changing rooms.

Mr Woodman added: “These works have been done with a local contractor.

“The speed that they move at is three times faster than what you could achieve with a larger contractor.”

The new block and the other alterations will allow The Weald, which is rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, to increase the size of each year group from 270 to 300 pupils.

WSCC was approached for comment has not yet responded.

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