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Peter Hansford, Government Chief Construction Adviser, has visited schools in Bedford to celebrate the creation of 3,000 new pupil places for Bedford Borough Council delivered through built environment specialist, Scape Group, and its construction partners Kier and Willmott Dixon.
Bedford Borough Council sought the help of the Scape frameworks and design solutions Sunesis and Connect in 2011, at a time when £326million of ‘Building Schools for the Future’ funding was withdrawn from the council but the population of Bedford was increasing by approximately 1,000 people per year. The population is expected to grow a further 8% between 2013 and 2021.
Over the last four years 3,000 schools places have been created via the OJEU approved procurement process provided by the Scape frameworks and its partners – and there are another 3,000 in the pipeline. To satisfy the demand for new places the estimated cost to Bedford was £85million, but the available budget was just £51million. All schemes were delivered on time and to budget, saving Bedford Borough Council £34million.
The new classroom spaces have been applauded by headteachers who have highlighted the excellent acoustics, extensive display spaces, stunning architecture and incorporation of innovative ‘learning streets’ (communal spaces in schools whose use is dictated by the pupils themselves). Bedford is now the sixth best place in the country for Lower and Primary schools according to Ofsted.
Mark Robinson, Chief Executive of Scape Group, commented: “Bedford was facing a school places crisis due to population growth at a time when budgets were cut. We have not only delivered much-needed school places with our partners Willmott Dixon and Kier which are being celebrated by teachers, parents and pupils alike but have made significant savings in their delivery.
“The school projects are also having a ripple effect in the local community and have so far created 122 work experience weeks, 231 apprentice weeks and 1,142 pupil site visits – on average 100 pupil visits to each school. The local spend has retained £54million of wealth in the local economy. With local authorities across the UK now needing to address population growth in more innovative ways, our work in Bedford is the ultimate example of how our frameworks can be used to problem solve.”
Peter Hansford, Government Chief Construction Adviser, comments: “The challenges faced by Bedford Borough Council are by no means unique. With local council budgets under increasing pressure and more cuts on the horizon, approaches to procurement and classroom delivery need to be more creative. Scape’s approach with its experienced construction partners and innovative design solutions have secured significant savings, increased the capacity and quality of the teaching environments, but also delivered a range of wider benefits to the surrounding area. Replicating the approach pioneered in Bedford across the UK could be truly beneficial for local communities and enhance the quality of the education we are providing.”
The Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said: “We were delighted to show Dr Hansford around some of our new school buildings. Our investment in this programme has meant we have been able to avert any shortage in places and to do so by providing high quality new facilities. Local parents can rest assured that not only are there school places available for all local children, but that the new buildings going up provide an environment in which high standards of teaching and learning can take place. This is no more than local pupils and teachers deserve.”