Brown's billions to rebuild primaries

18th March 2005 at 00:00
Chancellor pledges education for all from age three to 18. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Almost half of England's 17,762 primary schools will be rebuilt or refurbished during the next 15 years, Labour promised this week.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, made education a centrepiece of his pre-election Budget with increased investment and a vow to provide education for all young people aged three to 18.

He promised primaries pound;9.4 billion for building works over the next five years with more money to follow. An extra pound;150 million will be available from 2008, rising to pound;500m a year later.

The announcement follows complaints from primary heads that they were excluded from the Government's multi-billion pound Building Schools for the Future programme.

Mr Brown also pledged a rise in direct payments to headteachers to spend as they choose, from pound;31,000 a year in 2005-6 to pound;36,000 in 2007-8 for primaries. Grants to secondaries will rise from pound;109,000 a year to Pounds 115,000.

The money is part of a pound;12bn increase in education spending by 2008 pledged by the Chancellor last July.

Mr Brown also announced an extra pound;25m a year until 2008 for schools in disadvantaged areas to spend on computer equipment.

He said: "The teaching and educational revolution in our schools is no longer blackboard and chalk, it is computers and electronic whiteboards."

This money is on top of the pound;1.62bn already pledged for the same period.

Teach First, the scheme which allows top graduates to work in challenging London schools, will be expanded to Manchester in 2006, and across four other cities by 2007.

One of the Budget's key priorities was to boost the number of young people who continue to learn post-16. From 2006, eight areas will pilot new Learning Agreements for 16 and 17-year-olds who are in work but do not receive any training.

Mr Brown said 17-year-olds in full-time education or unwaged training would be given pound;75 a week, made up of education maintenance allowances and other children's benefits.

Teenagers who are out of work and education will be offered special help to get into training.

The Government will also spend pound;20m over two years trialling schemes to boost employer and work-based learning for 14 to 16- year-olds.

Three and four-year-olds, meanwhile, will be entitled to 15 hours free nursery education by 2007.

Mr Brown also announced that the Office for Standards in Education will take over the inspection of children's services in addition to its current remit.

Canon John Hall, the Church of England's chief education officer, welcomed the primary school cash. There are about 4,500 Anglican primaries.

He said: "We had been concerned that the Government's strong emphasis on rebuilding secondaries would leave primaries as the poor relations."

Tim Collins, the shadow education secretary, said: "Parents and teachers want guaranteed funding for their schools with headteachers trusted to spend the money according to local needs. Instead they got a dossier of dodgy figures."

* dorothy.lepkowska@tes.co.uk

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