A report by a cross-party committee of senior MPs released this week condemned the government’s funding of its free schools programme as incoherent and wasteful.
“While the department is spending significant funds in creating 500 more free schools, even in areas with no shortage of places, existing schools struggle to live within their budgets and carry out routine maintenance,” the Public Accounts Committee report stated.
A National Audit Office report released in February found that a large number of school buildings in England required substantial repairs.
It is estimated that it will cost £6.7bn to return all school buildings across the country to a “satisfactory or better” condition, and a further £7.1bn to bring parts of school buildings up to “good” condition.
These estimates are rooted in a Department of Education property data survey, completed in 2014. It found that some 1,300 primary schools, or 8%, required more than £500,000 each, while 1,200 secondary schools (35% of the total) required more than £1m each to reach a satisfactory condition. However, the number of schools requiring funding could be higher, as not all schools were evaluated.
Much of the school estate is more than 40 years old, with an estimated 60% built before 1976. Common defects include problems with electrics, external walls, windows and doors.