Lack of investment to blame for leaky schools

13th February 2009 at 00:00
Lib Dems say Wales spends less on school buildings than rest of UK

For years, teachers have laboured in schools with leaky roofs, threadbare carpets and rotten windows. Last week, the Welsh Liberal Democrats revealed why this might be.

According to their research, the Assembly government invests just pound;352 per pupil on bringing school buildings up to scratch - almost half what England spends. Equivalent figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland are pound;462 and pound;1,410.

Jenny Randerson, the Lib Dems' education spokesperson, unveiled the comparative figures in the Senedd following Jane Hutt's announcement of a major investment plan to modernise all school and college buildings. The education minister said the work would be partly funded by the European Union and could take years to complete. But she gave no indication as to how much extra investment the government would make.

"Together we will plan for the long term and seek to rebuild or refurbish every school in Wales," she told Assembly members.

But critics said the government had consistently failed to invest enough cash in schools. A commitment to make all schools "fit for purpose" by 2010, made by Jane Davidson, the former education minister, was broken when it became clear it was not achievable.

Between 2004 and 2008, pound;667 million was invested in school buildings. A further pound;250m has been pledged by the Assembly government, local authorities and dioceses for 2008 to 2011.

But according to Ms Randerson, the Northern Ireland government has pledged Pounds 710m over the same period, rising to pound;3.5bn by 2018. The Scottish executive has committed itself to spending pound;2bn by 2010.

In England, the Building Schools for the Future programme, which has already seen 50 new secondaries built, aims to rebuild or refurbish every secondary by 2020 at a cost of pound;45bn. The money committed for 2008 to 2011 is pound;9.33bn.

In last week's debate, Ms Randerson said the Assembly government was clearly not doing the best for children in Wales. She questioned why more private-sector finance was not being sought. Andrew RT Davies, the Tory education spokesman, also attacked the government's "lamentable" record on updating schools.

Ms Hutt said she wanted to learn from investment projects across the UK. An announcement on cash allocations is expected next month.

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