Bradford Council is planning to go ahead with a Private Finance Initiative to build new secondary schools. Many other authorities are following the same route, although Bradfordís scheme, worth as much as £200million, could be the biggest in the country (with the largest amount of money to pay back).
Briefly, in a PFI scheme, a private company enters in to a contract with the Council to raise money on its behalf to build some schools. The scheme is a way of getting round restrictions on public sector borrowing, so the company owns the school and leases it to the Council. The new building is under the control of the company during the lease period - usually about 25 years - and in this time it also has a contract to look after the maintenance of the building and may run other non-teaching services such as administrative support.
But PFI does not stand for Perfectly Fine Idea
Private companies will be unable to raise loans as cheaply as councils. The company, through the scheme, must also make dividends for its shareholders.
The school must hand over to the company that part of its devolved budget which it has in the past devoted to maintenance (caretaking, grounds, cleaning etc.) The school loses the ability to transfer any of that money into any other area.
As the maintenance of the school building will be in the hands of the private company, maintenance staff will probably need to be transferred to that company.
Several PFI schemes are now underway. In Kirklees, Headteachers of schools involved wrote to the DfES complaining about delays to the completion of new buildings. They also linked a fall in the area's exam results to the disruption caused.
Is it in the interest of education in Bradford, or of the company who wins the contract? Would the improvement of school facilities be best served by building a few new secondary schools, to replace schools on which millions were recently spent for the Reorganisation, or by refurbishing many existing schools? The fact is that companies involved in PFI are mainly interested in putting up new buildings because this is more profitable and the company is able to take over the maintenance contract - and the maintenance costs in a new building are likely to be lower. And, as has been said, it is expensive, and it will benefit only a handful of schools - but the payback in future years is likely to come out of the whole education budget.
In April 1999 the Unionís Annual Conference expressed its opposition to the continuation of PFI/PPP as a means of delivering capital funding within education. The resolution noted the delays and failure to replace crumbling buildings; diversion of funds into consultancy costs; and the more expensive nature of financing by the private sector.
WLTM same for informal discussion/mutual support GSOH only requirement. Refreshments provided.
Bradford Resource Centre, Chapel Street, Little Germany, Thursday 12th December 5pm.
The Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Teachersí Group is supported by Bradford NUT. You do not have to be a member to come.
The National College for School Leadership in conjunction with the NUT is running a course for black and ethnic minority teachers in middle management who are looking to progress into school leadership. It will take place on Thursday Feb 6th and 7th, and Monday June 19th and 20th 2003 in Leeds. If you are interested, please contact the NUT Office.
Newsletters Archive Home