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Stat of the Week - Spend per pupil on school building projects

Until recently, school building had been the Cinderella of the education service for almost a quarter of a century. The curriculum, testing and assessment, market forces and the choice agenda were much closer to the front of policymakers' minds.

Despite the recent report from the National Audit Office that was critical of aspects of the programme to rebuild every secondary school in England, it should be acknowledged that spending on school building has increased sharply since 1997, albeit from a low base during the previous Conservative government.

Then, spending per pupil was only Pounds 130 per pupil (in 2008 prices). By 200910 that figure should be Pounds 1,020. Given that the majority of the spending will be in the secondary sector, this represents a significant investment in our secondary schools. Whether all will be rebuilt by 2020, as is the aim, is a moot point, especially as the planned figure for 2010-11 drops back to Pounds 940 per pupil, partly because there will be more pupils in the primary sector by then.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of a previous Labour government's attempt to replace Victorian primaries; a programme endorsed by Mrs Thatcher when she became education secretary. That programme became a victim of the economic crisis in the Seventies and the Victorian school still forms the basis of our primary system. Because the re-building scheme is secondary focused, it seems many of these primaries might be around to celebrate their second centuries. Whether the new glass-fronted secondaries will be is debatable.

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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