The new school building programme now looks unlikely to be launched before the summer, half a year later than planned, EducationInvestor can reveal.
Sources from both industry and government confirmed that the first projects built as part of the Priority Schools Building Progamme were now unlikely to be tendered before June.
The delay means that the programme, announced last year as a partial replacement for Building Schools for the Future, is now running six months behind schedule.
It is also understood that a contract to provide legal advice to the programme has yet to be awarded. The winner of that contract was originally due to be named last week.
"If they don't have lawyers appointed they can't really finalise the documentation or the procurement process," one legal source said.
A DfE spokesperson: "Partnerships for Schools are currently reviewing applications to the Priority School Building Programme to ensure there is a fair and rigorous selection of schools. Until all applications have been fully assessed we are not able to announce which schools will be in the programme."
He added: "We understand the high level of interest in this programme but it's really important that this work is not rushed and we will make an announcement in due course."
The deadline for schools or councils to bid for funding under the £2 billion Priority School Building Programme was 14 October 2011. The Department for Education (DfE) originally said it would announce which projects it would fund last December.
But the DfE is understood to have been overwhelmed by requests for funding. And on 16 January, schools secretary Michael Gove told the House of Commons that "final decisions on each school in the programme will not be made until at least next month".
It is unclear why the programme has been so severely delayed.
One contributing factor may be that Partnerships for Schools, the agency managing the programme, is in the process of becoming a part of the new Education Funding Agency, an arm of the DfE. That transition is due to happen in April.
But others have speculated that the programme may be under pressure from the Treasury, which is currently finalising the 2012 budget statement, due 21 March.