ELECTION 2019: Pupils and staff deserve better than having to put up with substandard school buildings

Janet Downs's picture

Nine years ago, the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme started under Labour was abolished by the incoming Coalition.   No consultation had taken place about scrapping the scheme before BSF funding was halted by then education secretary Michael Gove.

Nine years ago, and there are schools in England still waiting for money to replace dilapidated buildings.

One such school is Framwellgate School, Durham.  It was scheduled for refurbishment under BSF but the project fell through when BSF was binned.

Nine years later, Framwellgate is still waiting.  The music block is in a ‘donated temporary building’, paths flood when it rains, the science prep room is miniscule, dining space cramped and only a third of the classrooms are wheelchair accessible. 

But Framwellgate school will have to keep on applying for capital funding ‘just to keep existing buildings safe’, headteacher Andy Byers writes in Schools Week. 

As an academy, Byers can apply for money under the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF).  But the ‘investment’ recently announced by the government is insufficient.  It’s hype, said a union boss. 

Bids for CIF cash can be turned down.  The 2018 statistics ‘suggest that only one in four applications was successful’, Byers writes.  That means three in four – 75% - of the schools bidding for CIF money were refused.

Just think about that for a moment – a school in need of essential repairs has just a one in four chance of getting CIF money.  And the average award in earlier rounds was about £300k, Byers writes.

£300k ‘will not solve my school’s building woes’, Byers says.  He complains about the lack of central planning: ‘no single body is responsible for the plethora of funding sources.’  

Five years ago, the Local Government Association said capital funding for schools should come from one source .  This hasn’t happened: the multiple and confusing sources of capital remain.   Too little investment in too many pots.

But money is available for free schools, academy conversion costs and the rising expense of academy transfers.

The sorry state of many school buildings should be an election issue.   It is unacceptable that children, young people, teachers and support staff have to endure sub-standard accommodation in schools.

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