'Championing the rights of children'

School buildings survey to cost a further £6m

Garry Wed 29 Jan 2014 09:16

The Education Funding Agency oversees the maintenance and construction of school buildings.

An extra £6m will need to be found by a government agency to check the condition of school buildings across England, a funding watchdog warns.

The National Audit Office said the Education Funding Agency had been given "inconsistent data" by local councils.

As a result, the agency faces costs of £6m in unplanned spending to conduct a survey of 8,000 schools - which could divert money from other projects.

The NAO report also warns the agency is in danger of being "overloaded".

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) was set up by the Department for Education in April 2012 in an attempt to improve efficiency, accountability and transparency in the education sector.

It is responsible for making sure school funding agreements are in place, providing funding to schools and colleges and overseeing the maintenance and construction of their buildings.

School buildings
The government gave the EFA responsibility for the property data survey programme, which set out to collect data on the condition of approximately 23,000 schools in England by October 2013.

The findings were to be used to help make decisions about which schools should be refurbished or rebuilt.

To complete the programme, the EFA commissioned surveys of 57% of schools and relied on local authority data for the rest.

But a month before the programme was due to be finished, the EFA identified "inconsistencies in the data supplied by local authorities".

As a result, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced in November that the Department for Education (DfE) was commissioning surveys of the 8,000 schools that were meant to be covered by the council information.

"This will cost the agency £6m in unplanned spending, potentially diverting resources from other projects," the NAO report said.

"The delay in collection means that the data will not be available as planned to inform capital maintenance funding allocations in December 2014.

"This suggests that the agency may have been over-optimistic in its planning assumptions around the consistency of local authority data."

A spokesman for the DfE said: "The agency has achieved significant savings for the public purse in school rebuilding programmes - some 35% cheaper than under the previous government.

"We thank the NAO for its detailed report and will consider its recommendations carefully."

Read more... (BBC News - 29 January)