School rebuilding plans fall ‘woefully short’, say leaders

The School Rebuilding Programme was launched with a commitment to replace or refurbish buildings at 500 schools but over 1,000 have been nominated for it

Plans to commit £1 billion to rebuild 61 more schools as part of a government programme fall “woefully short” of what is needed to address the problems with school buildings, a heads’ leader has warned.

The School Rebuilding Programme was launched in 2020 with a commitment to replace or refurbish buildings at 500 schools over the next decade.

But the Department for Education revealed today that it had received nominations for 1,105 schools to be part of the scheme, meaning over half will miss out.

There are currently 161 projects in the programme, with 100 announced last year and a further 61 on July 12th.

But Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said the plans lacked “ambition” and “funds”.

Plea for more funding for school buildings

He said today’s announcement was “woefully short of what is truly needed to provide all our children and teachers with access to state-of-the-art classrooms and school buildings”.

And he added: “The School Rebuilding Programme is clearly lacking in both funds and ambition – the programme will only support 500 projects over a decade, just over 2 per cent of schools.

“With soaring gas and electricity prices crippling many school budgets, we need a far more ambitious and better funded programme to ensure that all our schools are fit for purpose.”

And Hayley Dunn, business leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that while she “welcomed” the announcement”, she was ”disappointed” that it would “not go far enough in meeting the major requirement for repairs and refurbishment across the whole school estate”.

Eleven schools in the North West, 10 in the North East and six in Yorkshire and the Humber will be built as part of the rebuilding programme, which the government said would help with its “levelling up” agenda.

Education secretary James Cleverly said: “Our School Rebuilding Programme is already making a difference to the lives of pupils and their teachers. It is creating greener school sites that are fit for the future and that local communities can be proud of.

“We know how important it is to have high-quality school facilities. That is why we continue to invest billions in our rebuilding programme.”

Andy Byers, headteacher of Framwellgate School Durham, which was chosen as one of the 61 schools to be part of the programme, said he was “absolutely delighted”.

“Our school was designed and built in the 1960s and is old and tired and very poorly designed. With a new building we will be able to give our students facilities and a learning environment which will inspire them, and our staff, in the working environment they deserve”, he added.

In 2017 a National Audit Office report suggested that it would cost £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition, and a further £7.1 billion to bring parts of school buildings from satisfactory to good condition.

And as recently as last year, a report by the Department for Education put the cost of repairing or replacing “all defective elements in the school estate” at £11.4 billion.

Source: TES Magazine

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