Government announces £1 billion school refurbishment plan

·3-min read

Sixty-one schools will be rebuilt or refurbished through a £1 billion fund, the Government has announced.

In James Cleverly’s first announcement as Education Secretary, he said the schools would either receive “state of the art” rebuilds or refurbishments.

The investment to provide modern classrooms for thousands of pupils forms part of the Government’s flagship School Rebuilding Programme, with work on the rebuilds starting immediately.

Buildings will be updated and modernised, while new sports halls, music rooms, science laboratories and dining areas will be included as part of the scheme.

The Government said the buildings will be net-zero carbon in operation.

Eleven schools in the North West, 10 in the North East and six in Yorkshire and the Humber will be built, which the Government said would help with its levelling up agenda.

Mr Cleverly said: “Our School Rebuilding Programme is already making a difference to the lives of pupils and their teachers. It is creating greener school sites that are fit for the future and that local communities can be proud of.

“We know how important it is to have high-quality school facilities. That is why we continue to invest billions in our rebuilding programme.”

Andy Byers, headteacher of Framwellgate School Durham, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Framwellgate School Durham has been chosen to be part of the School Rebuilding Programme.

“Our school was designed and built in the 1960s and is old and tired and very poorly designed. With a new building we will be able to give our students facilities and a learning environment which will inspire them, and our staff, in the working environment they deserve.”

Other schools chosen to participate in the first round of the programme include West Coventry Academy and St John Fisher Catholic High School in Wigan, where all of their school buildings will be replaced.

The Government said that the commitment was part of its Schools White Paper proposals.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said that while the programme was “welcome”, 2022 capital funding for schools was £1.9 billion less than it had been in 2009 in real terms, and that the investment needed to be compared with what had been cut, “which is 50 times larger”.

“Capital spending was the largest cut to education and was imposed immediately after the 2010 election. If the Government had not cut Labour’s school rebuilding programme, £27 billion more would have been spent on school and college buildings,” he said.

He added that a National Audit Office report of 2017 had shown that £6.7 billion was needed to restore all school buildings to a satisfactory condition “and a further £7.1 billion to bring parts of school buildings from a satisfactory to good condition”.

“The NEU believes these figures are likely to be an underestimate as they were formed from the DfE’s 2014 Property Data Survey, so parts of the school estate will have deteriorated further since then.

“This 2014 survey also did not take asbestos into account, so these figures make no assessment of the cost of asbestos management and removal.

“60% of schools were built before 1976 and around 85% of schools contain asbestos, which not only makes them more difficult and expensive to maintain, but a riskier environment to work or learn in.”

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