Minister invites class-cutting bids

* The Pounds 700m increase in the Government's target for improving and replacing school buildings seems to be based on hope, guesswork and a new definition of "partnership", writes Biddy Passmore.

David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, announced last week that the Pounds 1.3 billion New Deal for Schools launched by the Chancellor in July has become a Pounds 2bn five-year programme. Central government's contribution, funded by the windfall tax on the utilities, stays at Pounds 1.3bn: the rest is to come from "partnership funding". The contribution by the churches, which pay 15 per cent of capital costs in voluntary-aided schools, might be similar to the Pounds 20-30m spent last year.

None of the building money in the currect year comes from the private sector as Private Finance Initiative schemes have yet to get started.

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