In despair over our disrepair

21st April 2006 at 01:00
Mouldy, leaking classrooms and schools without indoor toilets or staffrooms will still be with us in 2010, despite an Assembly government target to ensure all school buildings are fit places to learn for the nation's children. Spending has almost doubled in the past five years, but, of 12 local authorities responding to a TES Cymru survey, 11 say not all school buildings will be "fit for purpose" by the end of the decade. Powys, for instance, with a repairs backlog of pound;50 million to pound;60m, says spending will need to at least double to reach the target. But the Assembly is offering no guarantees of funding increases.

If the local authorities' estimates are correct, parents and teachers are entitled to ask whether enough money is being set aside for capital expenditure in education.

The Welsh Local Government Association's finding that spending is much higher in England, where pound;7 billion is to be spent on refurbishing half of 17,762 primaries by 2022, cannot easily be dismissed. It raises once more the issue of whether enough of the Westminster money passed to Wales for health and education is going on schools. As the Assembly has set a target, this summer's planned review of progress would be a good time to give some answers on how it will be achieved.

But Jane Davidson, the minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, is also right to ask whether too many authorities are failing to spend cash allocated for capital spending on school buildings in need.

The highest-spending authority invested five times as much per head on school buildings as some of the lowest last year - pound;128 in Wrexham compared with pound;22 and pound;27 respectively in Anglesey and Ceridigion. And according to inspectors, 11 primary schools in Ceredigion lack outdoor toilets, and many have limited outdoor play facilities for under-fives. Local authorities' lack of commitment may be part of the problem.

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