Writing in the Guardian, Fiona Millar says the coalition’s Priority Schools Building programme is not delivering results and some pupils are still being taught in buildings that were declared inadequate 10 years ago. This is an extract…
There is a cartoon on one of the presentations currently being circulated by the government to schools that have been promised money under the current school building programme. It shows a headteacher figure, pointing a ruler at a blackboard, with a speech bubble that reads: “I really wanted an atrium”.
For Karine Jasper, newly appointed headteacher of the Newark academy, the implication is clear: aspirations that heads like Jasper had for their schools under the last government’s Building Schools for the Future programme are being derided.
And the staff, pupils and parents at her school are as angry as she is. The Newark academy’s predecessor school, the Grove school, is one of hundreds of schools across the country that lost millions of pounds in capital investment when BSF was cancelled by the coalition in 2010.
Education Guardian first visited the Newark school just over a year ago, before it converted to an academy. We met parents who had chosen the school on the basis of its planned new building and were waiting to hear if it would get into the coalition’s much less ambitious Priority Schools Building programme (PSBP).
But a year after being told that the school’s condition was among the worst in the county, and that it would be one of 261 schools eligible for the new capital investment, the academy is still waiting to hear when any money will actually be available; and if and when the building work might start. Some 715 projects were cancelled with the demise of BSF, and the PSBP includes just 69 of those owing to different eligibility criteria.
Meanwhile, the school’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. In one block the classrooms are dark as the windows have been boarded up to support the roof. Some classrooms have holes in the ceiling. Further patching-up work is not economical or feasible because of asbestos…
Recent announcements from the Department for Education suggest progress on the £2bn PSBP, announced last June, has been patchier than expected. A spokesman said that work had been confirmed with 124 schools, to be funded either through a private finance initiative or direct capital grants. “There has been no delay or change to the timetable,” he added.
But raising finance for new PFI schemes, which Michael Gove, the education secretary, announced would be the main source of funding for PSBP, has been harder than anticipated. The remaining schools are due to be funded via capital grants, but this is subject to next week’s comprehensive spending review.
It is estimated that a further £1bn is needed, to come either from the Treasury or within the DfE budget, and there is little prospect of replacement funding for the 600-plus schools that lost BSF and are not in the PSBP.
Are you teaching in classrooms that you consider unfit for the task? Are you a head or governor of a school that has been promised building works without any sign of delivery? Tell us your situation and the impact it is having, via Twitter or in the comments…