Unions demand extra funding for school rebuilding

Trade unions have urged Rishi Sunak to commit to an extra £4 billion to upgrade school buildings, as the Department for Education continues to grapple with a crisis over crumbling concrete.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, eight trade unions and the body representing school governors warned of “serious concerns” about the state of school buildings in England as they appealed for more funding in the autumn statement in November.

“We call on the Government to invest at least an extra £4.4 billion annually to upgrade school buildings at the upcoming Autumn Statement, bringing the total yearly spend to the £7 billion your own officials have previously recommended.

“This will help ensure this crisis never happens again and show the Government is prepared to spend whatever it takes to keep children safe in education,” the letter says.

It has been signed by the leaders of the Association of School and College Leaders, the National Association of Head Teachers, NASUWT, the National Education Union, GMB, Unison, Unite and Community.

The National Governance Association also signed the letter.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt will deliver the Autumn Statement in November (Aaron Chown/PA)

Scores of schools and colleges in England were told by the Government to fully or partly close their buildings just days before the start of the autumn term amid concerns about collapse-prone reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete.

The decision, taken by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, has sparked renewed concern about the state of school buildings.

Critics and opposition parties have accused the Conservatives of underfunding school rebuilding and improvement over the last decade.

The unions tell Mr Sunak: “Parents, school staff and children and young people have been alarmed to hear – at the start of the new academic year – about crumbling school buildings and the deterioration of the school estate, which could present a very serious risk to their safety.

“The crisis involving reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete has shone a broader light on the crippling underfunding of our school buildings, which has left many unsafe and no longer fit for purpose.”

They say that parents and teachers have long complained about “crumbling school buildings, asbestos, leaking roofs, and temporary accommodation that had long outlived their intended lifespan”.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his autumn statement on November 22.