£5m contract for interior of DfE’s new HQ ‘hypocritical’

Architects have accused the Education Secretary of hypocrisy for choosing award-winning designers for his new ‘palace’ in Whitehall, while pupils learn in prefabricated classrooms. 

When the Coalition came into power Michael Gove claimed that the Building for  Schools Programme  was wasting money with architects “creaming off cash” and  criticised schools that brought in “award-winning architects” to design new premises, the Independent reports.

Now Mr Gove’s department has appointed the major international architects BDP to design the interior of its new HQ in Whitehall’s Old Admiralty Building. The total cost of refurbishing the Royal Navy’s former 18th century headquarters has not been announced, but the design contract alone is worth up to £5 million. DfE civil servants will enjoy 11.25 square metres of workspace, compared to just six square metres per pupil in a typical new school.

Architects were scathing over the design commission. “Giving yourself a Palace in Whitehall, refurbished by leading UK designers and condemning school children to learn in prefabricated classrooms is hypocrisy that belongs to George Orwell’s Animal Farm,” said Peter Morris from Peter Morris Architects. Elena Tsolakis of Kyriakos Tsolakis Architects added: “It’s ironic that for his own commission he hires one of the biggest practices around while he is happy for the children of the country to be educated in flat-packed, shrunken schools.”

The DfE claimed that the move to Old Admiralty would save taxpayers more than £19 million a year. “The proposed move is the latest step by the DfE to reduce the cost of its property estate. Since May 2010 it has reduced the annual cost of its buildings by £17 million,” a spokesman said.

Do you think architects are right to criticise Michael Gove for awarding a £5 million contract to an award-winning design firm for the interior of the DfE’s new HQ? Is it one rule for civil servants and another for teachers and pupils?

5 thoughts on “£5m contract for interior of DfE’s new HQ ‘hypocritical’

  1. If the DfE are going to refurbish their offices, they should be forced to use the same budget the EFA and LEA’s set aside for refurbishing school buildings under the priority for schools programme and newest Building Bulletin guidelines BB103 recently published by Mr Gove’s department. A senior teachers office is only allocated 8m2 for their office under the BB guidelines.

  2. Yes it is totally hypocritical of Mr Gove yet nothing he does surprises me anymore after he described all teachers as Bad teachers because they do not agree with him !!! We need to get him out!!!

  3. Typical out of touch rich guy who is only concerned with feathering his own nest. Not interested in the real education of normal children from working class backgrounds. Proof in the schools every school i know has either port cabins, falling apart or supplied by some business who makes it difficult to do anything.

  4. We do not know the full story of the tender for the design brief and the other submissions.A first class firm of Architects with a good track record seems a good choice.On the other hand our children deserve to be educated in state of the art buildings which will encourage excellence and the pursuit of knowledge.It is false economy on behalf of leaders to stereotype educational premises when variety and new ideas are the future.
    Everyone deserves a good working environment and we live in a country which can afford to bless our young people with this prerequisite for enrichment and health.Where there is a will there is a way and it is beholden on the leaders to ensure our children receive the best,they are our future.

  5. Mr Gove obviously did not read or adhere to the Dfe guidelines for procurement – there is no way he can justify the spend, he is not getting value for money and it will not improve the attainment or progression of the employees that will work there.
    BSF has resulted in some of the ugliest coloured boxes I have ever seen and several local schools that have moved went straight into special measures !

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