Schools will close without more money for ageing buildings, DfE warned

One of the country's largest MATs speaks out over ‘ticking time bomb’ of crumbling school estate, at an event attended by senior officials

Charlotte Santry

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Schools will have to close unless the government pumps funding into the “ticking time bomb” of crumbling buildings, a senior multi-academy trust director has warned.

The 50 schools run by Oasis Community Learning face a £302 million capital funding “hole”, the trust’s national director of property and estates, Andy Simpson, revealed today.

He was speaking during an event in central London this morning attended by senior Department for Education officials and the head of the DfE’s property company, LocatEd, which buys sites for free schools.

Mr Simpson said the entire school estate across the country faced significant shortfalls in capital funding, which pays for things such as new roofs and boilers.

He said: “The ticking time bomb, or the elephant in the room, is the existing estate. Most of our children are in ageing buildings…I think the DfE knows the level of capital investment…is wholly insignificant.

“Just in Oasis, in our 50 schools, we’ve got a £302m hole…and that has no solution.

“Those schools will close. Those places will not be places unless there is a government solution. I think we should all call for the right investment.”

Last year, the DfE diverted £420m of capital funding into the per-pupil budget, amid widespread calls for better school funding.

The National Audit Office has previously warned that billions are needed to restore the school estate to a “satisfactory” condition.

Other speakers at today’s Westminster Education Forum event had raised similar concerns to Mr Simpson.

Wayne Bates, national negotiating official at the NASUWT teaching union, highlighted a recent survey that showed 58 per cent of respondents felt that the physical condition of their school had declined since they began working there.

He said: “Millions of pounds have been poured into the free schools programme, while pupils and teachers in other schools are crammed into inadequate buildings."

Later, he added: “We as a union are very concerned that the money isn’t there and the current school estate is crumbling quite rapidly, and that extra money needs to be put in as a matter of urgency.”

Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, called for money to be available for long-term building maintenance.

He said: “You can be assured that the messages we’re giving, as Tories to a Tory government, is that they really need to make sure that the funding is there for that long-term maintenance. Whether they’re listening, I don’t know.”

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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