Doing it the PFI way

8th June 2001 at 01:00
When your school is split over three sites, all of which require work, you will take a new building wherever you can get it.

Malcolm Trobe, headteacher at Malmesbury secondary in Wiltshire, has done just that. His school is now split between an 1850s Victorian building, one from the 1950s with a leaking roof, and a 1960s block with no upper-floor heating. As if that wasn't enough, the lower school is more than a mile away from the upper school.

In December 1997, he began negotiations for a Public Finance Initiative contract to bring his school together on one site. The pound;125 million contract, signed last October, provides for the almost complete rebuilding of his school, as well as nearby Wootton Bassett secondary and a new school for the area.

"There is an absolutely tremendous amount of work involved," said Mr Trobe. "The time commitment for heads and local authority officials involvd in PFI projects is considerable. At times, my colleague and myself were spending two days a week working on the contract."

And he estimates a shortfall of pound;400,000 a year over the next 30 years between the amount the Government contributes and the price of the building work. There is not as much money coming in through PFI credits as required. And he says other schools are experiencing similar problems.

As well as the capital costs, paid by the LEA, the school will pay 10 per cent of its budget to the contractors, White Horse Education Partnership, for maintenance, catering and other services. But Mr Trobe believes the effort and expense will be worth it when pupils and teachers move into the new building next March.

"Very few students ever get the opportunity to go into a completely new school with new equipment for subjects such as technology," he said.

Jon Slater

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