The Guardian reports that Report says DfE must use funding more cost-effectively and notes 60% of schools are more than 40 years old and in disrepair.
The government’s funding of its free schools programme has been denounced as “incoherent and too often poor value for money” in a hard-hitting report by a cross-party committee of senior MPs.
The report by the public accounts committee accuses the Department for Education of spending “over the odds” on unsuitable sites and building free schools in areas where extra places are not always needed.
Meanwhile, it says the existing school estate – much of which is more than 40 years old – is falling into disrepair and would require an estimated £7bn to restore it to a satisfactory condition.
According to the report, the education department spent £863m on 175 sites for free schools between 2011 and 2016 – of those 24 individual sites cost more than £10m and four more than £30m. It expects to spend a further £2.5bn on land for schools from 2016-22, putting it in the same spending bracket as UK’s top five home builders.
“On average, it has paid 19% over the official valuation, with 20 sites costing over 60% more.” said the committee chair, Labour’s Meg Hillier.
At a time when there is pressure on school places, the report also highlights the problems facing local authorities – who are legally responsible for ensuring there are enough school places yet have no direct control of free school or academy places, which are controlled by the department.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the report was “a devastating critique” of the government’s failure to provide sufficient school places. “The government must get a grip. It must reinstate local authorities into the planning and provision of school places and demonstrate that funding will be made available to stop school buildings deteriorating further.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary said the report was a damning verdict on the government’s schools policy. “When she was shadow education secretary, the prime minister said large classes were a sign that schools were reaching crisis point. It is time for her to face the fact that she has created a crisis in our nation’s schools.”
Do you think local authorities should be reinstated into the planning and provision of school places? Would it make any difference to the spending costs? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter ~ Tamsin
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