Only two of DfE’s 11 major projects are ‘likely’ to meet targets on time and on budget

Only two of the 11 major projects of the Ministry of Education are considered “likely” to meet their goals and to stay on time and on budget, according to government experts.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority has raised concerns over a series of flagship education initiatives, including the national tutoring program, T-levels, teacher training reforms and the construction program. priority schools.

The body, which is part of the Treasury and Cabinet Office, provides scrutiny and advice on each ministry’s most important, innovative or risky projects.

Successful deployment of NTP seemed ‘impractical’ in March

His recently published annual report and delivery confidence ratings for each project, it gave the national tutoring program a red rating as part of its traffic light rating system in March.

Red means that “successful delivery of the project seems unachievable”, a finding that could sound the alarm and cause embarrassment to the DfE.

Launched last year, the NTP offers heavily subsidized tutoring sessions, which ministers say should target disadvantaged students. It is a key part of the government’s vision to catch up on “lost learning” during the pandemic.

For the PNT to be rated red, the IPA must have identified “major issues with the project definition, schedule, budget, quality and / or delivery of benefits, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolved ”. It was the only red classified project in the department.

But a DfE spokesperson said it had since been upgraded to an orange rating, “due to the additional capacity and resources dedicated to the program.”

The IPA says this means a successful delivery is “doable”, but “significant issues already exist requiring management attention.”

Comments from the DfE filed in the IPA report also indicate that there has been “no deviation from schedule”. The total cost of the PNT until summer 2024, including non-government costs, is £ 523 million.

One in 10 PSBP2 schools rebuilds late

The New School Reconstruction Program and Phase Two of the Priority School Construction Program also received an orange rating.

It comes on the same day the government appointed 50 more schools to benefit from its new school reconstruction program. The DfE, however, told the IPA in March that it had made “good progress”.

The PSBP has been the government’s main reconstruction project over the past decade for schools in the worst conditions.

The second phase was supposed to see all 277 projects completed by 2022, but by 2018 it was clear that not all work would be completed on time. The government blamed “a lack of interest from entrepreneurs”, “overly ambitious” forecasts and “complex” feasibility studies at the time.

The IPA has now revealed that it expects one in 10 PSBP2 projects to be delayed beyond the December 2021 deadline. Only “over 90 percent” of the projects have been contracted, and two projects have not even seen completed feasibility studies.

“Projects are more complex and take longer to deliver,” officials said.

“Tight deadlines” for the ECF and the NPQ

The roll-out of the early career framework and national professional qualifications as part of a teacher training overhaul also received an orange rating.

The rating reflects risks, including “tight deadlines for vendors to mobilize and recruit schools and cohorts” and market capacity as well as a commitment to a September 2021 launch for the ECF and new NPQs.

But an IPA review found in February that “although delivery times remain tight, critical milestones are being reached.”

Doubts about the desire to reduce costs

The schools’ business strategy received an “amber red” rating. Such a score usually means that “the success of the project is in doubt, with risks or major problems apparent in a number of areas”.

The strategy is a large-scale DfE cost-cutting plan for schools, with officials hoping that an investment of £ 157.9million can cut non-staff spending by £ 2.67 billion. It aims to “help schools optimize their non-staff spending and change the behavior of those affected so that they become more proactive in reviewing their spending and ways to reduce it.”

But the DfE blamed “on-going recruiting activity” for the IPA rating, saying it had led to “delivery problems for projects requiring a volume of specialist resources.”

Time and effort were “diverted from carrying out the project to recruit the right resources” in certain areas, according to DfE notes alongside the IPA judgment.

Soaring T-tier costs

T-levels were also given an orange-red rating, with those responsible for their deployment meeting monthly with IPA managers and DfE’s own major projects team also providing support to ensure plans “stay on track.” way ”.

Documents show officials now estimate their total cost to the government and others between 2016 and 2023 at £ 1.1bn, nearly ten times more than the planned costs of £ 155.6m it a year ago.

The only explanation given is that the numbers have been “refined during further planning via the spend review”, and that Covid had had a “considerable impact” over the past year.

The DfE also said Covid introduced “new levels of uncertainty”, with potential impact on further deployment in September.

The first T-level courses began last September as part of a government’s “technical education revolution” to improve its standing alongside A-levels. However, the government estimated only 2,500 students would start the first handful of lessons, and only 1,300 were registered in October.

But a DfE spokesperson said School week The deployment of T Levels has always been gradual to “ensure that the qualifications are of high quality and are successful from the start”.

The only two of the 11 major DfE projects to be rated green or amber green by the IPA were plans to deliver more high-quality learning and the Institute of Technology curriculum.

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About Kristina McManus

Kristina McManus

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