Repairs facing pound;8bn backlog

10th June 2005 at 01:00
Authorities with crumbling schools must wait for cash as the Government targets poor results. Michael Shaw reports

Many areas with the biggest backlogs of school repairs are facing a frustrating wait for the cash to fix their crumbling buildings.

The Government has revealed that more than pound;8 billion is needed for overdue repairs of school buildings in England.

Ministers promised to rebuild or refurbish all secondary schools by 2020 through Building Schools for the Future. Half of primary schools were to receive the same treatment by 2023.

However, many of the authorities with the biggest problems are not among the first 38 to start receiving the extra cash. Instead the Government has made local authorities with poor exam results and high levels of poverty the priority in the first three years of its secondary programme. No details have yet been announced for the primary rebuilding programme.

Of the 50 with the biggest repair bills, only 12 have been chosen for the first phases of the building scheme, which will provide more than pound;2bn a year for renovations.

Mark Hoban, Conservative MP for Fareham in Hampshire, who obtained the repair figures in a Parliamentary Question, said: "The shire authorities are missing out yet again. I can see why money is needed for urban areas with high deprivation, but there needs to be more balance so schools which need repairs do not have to wait another 10 to 15 years."

Hampshire has the third biggest backlog, with a repair bill of more than Pounds 240 million, but has not been chosen for the scheme.

Nearly half of the schools in the county have Scola (Second Consortium of Local Authorities) buildings, near-identical blocks created cheaply in the 1950s and 1960s. The buildings can have high maintenance costs, leaky flat roofs and be too cold in winter and hot in the summer.

Schools which Hampshire wishes to refurbish with greatest urgency include Staunton Park community school in Havant, which has had to board up the windows of its sports hall to prevent injuries.

Michael Madden, headteacher, said he appreciated the support the school had received from the council and the Government, but was surprised it was taking so long to replace the hall.

Other authorities with large repair bills which have not been selected for the early stages of BSF include Essex, Cornwall, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

Warwickshire has the highest average bill per school of this group at more than pound;600,000.

Andy Brown, secretary of the Nuneaton branch of teachers' union NASUWT, said that the backlog of repairs across the north of the county was frightening. "There are real problems when you're teaching because the windows are so old you can have difficulty shutting them."

The DfES said it stood by its decision to give priority to authorities with high levels of deprivation rather than those with the greatest repair needs. However, a spokeswoman said authorities scheduled for rebuilding late in the programme could receive an early payment to fix their worst-built secondary school.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

Platform 21

THE 20 MOST IN NEED OF REPAIR

Birmingham pound;338m

Lancashire pound;244m

Hampshire* pound;240m

Essex* pound;198m

Kent pound;167m

Cornwall* pound;147m

Warwickshire* pound;144m

Leeds pound;137m

Derbyshire pound;130m

Sheffield pound;128m

Staffordshire* pound;119m

Nottinghamshire* pound;113m

Bradford pound;112m

Surrey* pound;112m

Durham pound;106m

Leicestershire* pound;102m

North Yorkshire* pound;101m

East Riding of Yorks* pound;99m

Kirklees* pound;97m

Norfolk* pound;92m

* Authorities which have not been included in the first three rounds of Building Schools for the Future

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