New Deal welcome, but is it enough?

14th April 2000 at 01:00
A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD'S decision to film a "video nasty" of his school's crumbling classrooms seems to have paid off - with a pound;720,000 grant to replace them with permanent buildings, writes Karen Thornton.

Broadclyst primary near Exeter - whose pupil Ross Saunders sent the video to Education Secretary David Blunkett - is one of thousands of schools to benefit from the pound;600 million being handed out in the last phase of the Government's New Deal for Schools scheme. Ross said: "This is very good news. It will be nice to have good buildings."

The New Deal was originally funded by the windfall tax on the privatised utilities. It was also given an extra pound;250m by the Chancellor in this year's Budget.

The scheme was set up to tackle the multi-million-pound backlog in urgent repairs to schools. But it ends in 2002, and there are already calls for a "mark two" version for more essential reairs.

The final grants were announced this week by Mr Blunkett, and will help finance repairs to 6,300 schools over the next two years. Two million pupils will benefit from the scheme.

Around pound;150m has been set aside for replacing 1,500 of the worst temporary classrooms.

The remaining pound;450m will pay for extensions, building specialist laboratories and classrooms, structural repairs, re-roofing, window replacement, and boiler and heating system replacement.

But Devon Council, which bid pound;23m and won pound;7.4m for several projects, including the work at Broadclyst - 12th on its priority list - said there were still more schools in need of urgent repairs.

A DFEE spokesman said that, although no more New Deal money was available, there would be future funding for repairs, and that more details would be available after this summer's review of Government spending.

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