Free Schools and Priority Schools Building Programmes

Supporting the UK Government's schools programme

Helping the UK's Department of Education to build and refurbish 500+ schools

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Free Schools and Priority Schools Building Programmes Project summary


Education Funding Agency

Services provided

Cost consultancy, Project and programme management, Consult


Education, Sectors


UK and Europe, UK - London and south-east England, UK - Midlands, south-west England and Wales, UK North

Project timeline

Start date
December 2011

Project story

Our unique breadth of expertise, from project management to construction design, is proving invaluable to the UK Government Education Funding Agency’s Free Schools and Priority Schools Building Programmes (PSPB) to increase provision and parental choice in the education system.

The Free Schools Programme offers a new model of education: the new schools are centrally funded and managed by newly established trusts. The EFA first appointed us as one of its technical advisors in 2011 to help shape this new generation of schools (and reappointed us in 2013).

We work closely with free school trusts to develop designs for new schools and then manage the procurement process. Once the contractor is appointed, we work with the trust to agree the final design and cost, before managing the works on site.

The PSBP is focused on schools in most urgent need of repair, refurbishment or replacement. We have been technical advisor on both phases of this programme (1 and 2) and by the end of 2016 will have completed or have in progress over 60 PSPB projects.

In our role as technical advisor and project manager, we are involved in brand new buildings, extensions to existing educational facilities and the conversion of a variety of structures into temporary or permanent schools.

This project profile features in our Northern Powerhouse section.
Education Funding Agency Class Room - Mace Group

Project stats

175+ projects delivered since 2011
7,500+ additional UK pupil places created
£5bn of capital funding

Points of note

From church hall to air raid bunker

Many of the new schools involve remodelling or refurbishing existing buildings. These have included a car park, shopping centre, museum, office block, church hall, listed buildings and even a World War 2 air raid bunker.

Understanding the client

Having worked with the EFA since 2011, our strong team of experienced technical advisers understand its attitude to risks. We ensure that experienced technical advisers work closely with new team members, providing training and support and sharing lessons learned, ensuring we maintain a high level of experience within our team.

Educational experience

Before 2010, we worked for several local authorities as part of Building Schools for the Future, which involved unprecedented government investment in schools. Following a change in Government that year, the EFA was established, and we were appointed to support its Free Schools Programme.

Nationwide expertise

Our offices across the UK also mean our team is flexible and responsive, providing local solutions while meeting the ambitious demands of the programmes - we've even seconded a number of senior managers into the EFA. At the same time, we achieve value for money using standard processes and by sharing learning and continuous improvement.

Rapid appraisals to reduce risk

Our rapid appraisals of sites helps the EFA to understand site constraints and risks of proposed sites for new schools, including ground conditions and planning issues. It can then make an informed decision on whether to commit to a site without significant expenditure, reducing the level of risk to the scheme.

“Mace managed the project excellently and the relationship between the contractor, the client - us, and Mace was very good. Lines of communication were clear and the project ran to time and exceeded our expectations, as it was funded for a refurbishment but we got a school that feels like a brand new school and indeed much of it is!”