Will the BSF programme be abandoned?

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme may have to be scaled back to pay for the government's ‘free schools’ programme, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned.

Building work on hundreds of schools may have to be abandoned, the IFS said, and that there was not enough money both to finish Labour's £55bn school renewal programme and fund free schools, the BBC reported this week.

The government's free schools policy encourages parents' groups, trusts, charities and other providers to set up their own schools, while Labour’s BSF programme promised to rebuild or renew every one of the 3,500 secondary schools in England by 2020.

Work is under way or finished in more than 400 schools, and another 1,000 are at various stages of planning.

Luke Sibieta, from the IFS, said it was "difficult to imagine" the government would be able to fund both projects and "something had to give somewhere".

"Either they have to scale back plans for free schools or reduce building schools for the future by a substantial degree," he said.

Construction Products Association chief executive Michael Ankers said: “Although it is clear that government will need to address its public borrowing, it is critical that government provides clarity on where potential spending cuts may occur and ensures that spending cuts do not occur in those areas that are key to facilitating the economic recovery.”

The holding statement from the government on BSF is: “The Department for Education has not taken any decisions on BSF. Any future rollout decisions will be announced in due course.”