Department for Education’s top contractors revealed

Bowmer & Kirkland was the Department for Education’s (DfE) top builder in the past two financial years, Construction News can reveal.

Data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows that the Derbyshire-headquartered firm – the UK’s 12th-largest contractor by turnover according to the CN100 2022 – was paid £409m by the department over the past two years.

It led the way in each of the years, earning £197m in 2022/23 and £212m in 2021/22.

During the period, in December 2021, Bowmer & Kirkland landed 12 slots on the department’s four-year £7bn building framework.

Projects worked on include the Nanaksar Primary School in Hayes, West London, which opened in January 2022.

It also delivered the £23.6m Thames Park Secondary School in Grays, Essex, which opened in September 2022. The firm won the contract through the DfE’s modern methods of construction (MMC) framework, which allocated places to contractors in January 2020.

Wates and Bam Construct were joint second over the two years, with a combined £247m apiece.

Wates was in third place in 2022/23 with £136m. It has 11 slots on the DfE’s building framework.

Bam Construct, meanwhile, received the second-highest amount in 2022/23 – £151m. It landed only two slots on the £7bn framework, but they were both in the highest-value bands.

The department’s commitment to offsite methods of construction was reflected across the number of modular specialists to feature in the lists: Reds10, Portakabin, Spatial Initiative, Eco Modular Buildings, McAvoy Group and Caledonian Modular, which has since stopped trading. They shared £181m between them across the two years.

DfE top 15 construction contractors 2022/23
Position Contractor Total paid (£m)
1 Bowmer & Kirkland 197
2 Bam Construct 151
3 Wates Construction 136
4 Galliford Try Building 89
5 Kier Construction 78
6 Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure 57
7 Willmott Dixon Construction 48
8 REDS10 UK 35
9 Tilbury Douglas Construction 33
10 Portakabin 24
11 ISG Construction 22
12 Eco Modular Buildings 19
13 Spatial Initiative 17
14 Vinci Construction 14
15 McAvoy Group 9

In June, public-spending watchdog the National Audit Office warned that a major government initiative to remediate blocks at 500 education institutions in the direst need had seriously stuttered and just 24 contracts had been awarded through the School Rebuilding Programme, against a target of 83.

Inflation had put contractors off taking on a number of important jobs, forcing the DfE to revise the level of contractual risk it placed on them.

The issues came against a backdrop of concern about the presence of collapse-risk reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) and asbestos in schools and other public buildings.

DfE top 15 construction contractors 2021/22
Position Contractor Total paid (£m)
1 Bowmer & Kirkland 212
2 Wates Construction 111
3 Bam Construct 96
4 Tilbury Douglas Construction 95
5 Kier Construction 87
6 Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure 78
7 Galliford Try Building 57
8 ISG Construction 31
9 McAvoy Group 26
10 Willmott Dixon Construction 22
11 Caledonian Modular 18
12 Laing O’Rourke Construction 17
13 REDS10 UK 17
14 Spatial Initiative 16
15 Mace 13


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