Buildings still in same old state

Clare Dean summarises the findings of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations' massive schools survey.

Decaying brickwork, rising damp, leaking roofs, crumbling drives, potholed playgrounds and wet rot in corridor timbers.

These are just a few of the everyday complaints about school buildings that the NCPTA reports from headteachers and parents. In spite of the best efforts of staff and parents on such events as classroom "paint-ins", buildings remain inadequate.

But things seem not to have got much worse during the past five years. Although more than a quarter of schools participating in the NCPTA survey report a deteroriation in the fabric of their buildings, 38 per cent register an improvement and 32 per cent report no change. The proportion of schools reporting an improvement in the condition of their buildings is slightly greater than in the equivalent NCPTA survey five years ago.

According to this year's survey, eight out of 10 schools have been painted internally and seven out of 10 externally. But more than half the schools surveyed - almost 1,000 of them - report that the overall state of their decoration has either remained the same or deteriorated.

Sixteen years ago, Margaret Thatcher, then Secretary of State for Education and Science, looked forward to 1977-78 when "the country ought to be within sight of the elimination of primary schools built in the nineteenth century".

Today, there are Victorian schools the length and breadth of Britain. Six hundred primary schools still have outside toilets. More than two-fifths of the schools that took part in the NCPTA survey have a temporary classroom - a portable or pre-fabricated unit - on site.

The NCPTA says: "We have to ask whether it is right in the 20th century and in a technological age that so many schools remain in 19th-century buildings and have to use temporary accommodation."

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