State boarding schools in desperate need of cash for new buildings, head warns
State boarding school buildings could "collapse" around their staff and students because of a lack of funding for repairs and improvements, a leading headteacher will say today.
Roy Page, chairman of the State Boarding Schools’ Association, will accuse the government of having a “lack of vision” for how to support the “bricks and mortar” of its 38 state boarding schools, some of which date from the fifteenthcentury.
Mr Page, who is headteacher of The Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, will tell his association’s annual conference they are in “dire need of clarity and security” over funding.
Under the last government, 12 state boarding schools benefited from investment and two new state boarding schools were built, but the rest have received little support for 20 years.
Addressing the event, attended by education minister Liz Truss, Mr Page will say: “The trouble is the government’s lack of imagination or vision for how it can support the schools themselves - the literal, physical, bricks and mortar, the bedrooms and the dining-rooms of boarding schools.
"We may end up with wonderfully trained staff in buildings collapsing around them, with boarders running for cover, and prospective parents – and Ofsted inspectors – frankly horrified.
“Some of our longest established schools, run by experienced heads, are desperately anxious about the survival of their boarding houses.
“Large and successful schools with small boarding houses, and possibly dwindling numbers of boarders, may well wonder why they bother ... state boarding schools are not allowed to make a profit, neither are they allowed to borrow. To survive, they need state support.”
He will say that it is "sad" that schools have to rely on philanthropic donations, rather than government support.
Mr Page was also due to criticise a decision by education secretary Michael Gove to provide £17 million for the construction of a new state boarding school in West Sussex, backed by Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London. The move is being queried by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office.
His comments come a year after Melvyn Roffe, headteacher of Wymondham College, a state boarding school in Norfolk, said around two-thirds of the country’s state boarding schools had not received funding for building projects for at least two decades.
They risked becoming, he said, “at best behind the times, at worst inadequate”.
Boarding schools could miss out on a new system of locally distributed funding - introduced following the demise of Building Schools for the Future - as councils can regard them as a luxury, said Mr Roffe.
There are also concerns that money for boarding is going to untried and tested free school projects, rather than to established schools who know what they are doing.
But the schools which had not received investment, he said, risked becoming unattractive to parents, and could end up closing due to lack of pupils.