has announced that £500 million will be provided to help local authorities (LAs) meet demand for school places. He’s also launched a rebuilding programme for schools in poor condition (although he’s said this is unlikely to fund the BSF projects which were the subject of the judicial review). A letter
was sent directly to Academy Trusts and Sixth Form Colleges explaining the priority school building programme on 19 July, but LA maintained schools didn’t get a copy – their copy was sent to their LA.
As the letter was sent out as schools broke up for summer it’s likely that schools who think they might be eligible won’t know the details until early September. Schools can register in advance from 25 July, but as most schools are closed this probably won’t happen. So schools will have just a few weeks at the beginning of the busy Autumn Term to discuss their application, obtain building surveys, cost the work, liaise with LAs and prepare their proposal in order to meet the application submission window of 3 to 14 October.
Academies can apply on their own behalf or ask to be included in their LA submission. LAs will be responsible for applications from maintained schools and from any academy who wants the LA to take responsibility for its bid despite having opted-out of LA control. Free schools, University Technical Colleges (UTCs) and studio schools can also apply and they, too, can ask to be included in LA submissions. Academy chains can submit on behalf of their schools. Only schools which can demonstrate long term pupil demand will be considered, so that means unpopular, down-at-heel schools will continue to crumble and be locked into a cycle of decline.
The rebuilding will be funded under the private finance initiative (PFI) which was described as “discredited” by George Osborne when in opposition. The TES
quoted a Government source involved in the school-rebuilding initiative: "There is a massive need for capital investment at the moment, and if 100 schools can be built using PFI, then you are creating additional money - freeing up resources - to fund free schools.”
£800 million has already been allocated to the academies programme
which will include 71 capital projects
and £180 million has been given to Lord Baker for his UTCs
. LA maintained schools cannot access these funds but have to compete with academies, free schools, studio schools and UTCs for a share of the £500 million allocated to fund extra places. This generous-sounding offer is another example of how Government policy is being skewed in favour of academies and free schools.