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Boyd, D and Fellowes, J (2018) The Problem of Evaluating 'Value for Money' of School Building Programmes. In: Gorse, C and Neilson, C J (Eds.), Proceedings 34th Annual ARCOM Conference, 3-5 September 2018, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 363–372.
- Type: Conference Proceedings
- Keywords: evidence-based, public procurement, performance, quantification, rationality, politicisation
- ISBN/ISSN: 978-0-9955463-2-5
- URL: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/ba9f368f07edce1e8fb2d10acb40f2b7.pdf
The creation of schools has become a political activity with a focus on reducing costs for greater value. The programmes of school development in the UK have been driven by high profile strategic initiatives from Buildings Schools for the Future, to Priority School Building Programme each with a major focus on education but with an objective around better delivery. The subsequent political evaluation creates a set of evidence which supports or attacks the original strategic rhetoric and delivery plan. This research investigates the substance of this evidence around the delivery of better but lower cost schools. It was carried out by collecting secondary cost and design data, obtained by requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 from The National Audit Office, the Education and Skills Funding Agency and Local Education Authorities. The methodological complexity of determining and using this evidence is explored. The data found that, while the Priority School Building Programme was producing cheaper schools, the reductions were not as great as claimed. The data also failed to refute the criticism of quality found in the literature, however, nor did it confirm conclusively that there was an issue with reduced specification. Although the political client is ultimately the judge of value for money, and the Education Funding Agency (EFA) may claim that the reduced costs of the schools are achieving good value; the evidence is not able to convince other stakeholders or auditors without developing agreed quality assessment methods. Thus, the research concludes that the important task of delivering better schools within the public realm is constrained by the methodology of cost and quality data collection which is a political activity.