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Time is up for outside toilets

SCHOOLS with outside toilets and crowded classrooms will be the beneficiaries of the latest Government cash hand-out ofPounds 87 million for capital projects.

But the Department for Education and Employment figures on how the money will be divided among education authorities have been described as misleading by some local officers.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett says Pounds 40m for new classrooms will benefit 80,000 children and create 600 new classrooms, while a further Pounds 47m will mean the end of outdoor toilets at 450 schools, and will also help to pay for better heating systems. The additional funding was announced in the Budget in March.

Among the schools to benefit from the class sizes money will be 117 voluntary aided schools -which would normally have to pay 15 per cent of any capital improvements on their sites.

But the figures showing the initial allocations for each authority are confusing. In many cases, funding for some projects proposed by an authority has been held in reserve pending further discussion with the DFEE. However, the figures given for the number of classrooms added and pupils benefiting relate to the total cash value of both the initial allocations and the reserve projects (not listed).

For example, Kent has won an initial allocation of Pounds 295,000, intended to create 11 classrooms with 1,976 pupils benefiting from smaller classes. But the Pounds 295,000 will cover only four classes in four schools.

Officers are awaiting confirmation of other bids held in reserve, which would add up to the balance of classrooms and pupils. "The department's statistics are slightly misleading," said Dave Shipton, policy officer.

He add: "The pupil numbers and class numbers do not equate to the cash. They include the seven projects the department has put in reserve pending further information from us. We don't know what the allocation for them will be. "

The London borough of Bromley is in a similar situation, having secured an initial allocation of Pounds 80,000 for four classrooms and 965 pupils benefiting. The Pounds 80,000 relates to one classroom only.

David Tidy, Bromley council's group manager for premises and equipment, said: "I don't know why they have done it like this - it does give the wrong impression."

The way the figures are presented makes it difficult to work out the average capital costs of removing a single child from a class of 30. Prices per pupil range, on the confirmed allocations, from Pounds 969 in Middlesbrough to Pounds 157 in Stockport.

The range reflects the differing costs of freeing up additional class space by some internal remodelling, as opposed to building new classroom extensions.

A spokeswoman for the department said supplementary information had been supplied showing the education authority allocations broken down by school - and distinguishing between initial and reserve allocations.

In some reserve cases, negotiations were continuing because the department's architects felt the improvements could be achieved at lower cost, she added.

But - subject to discussions -authorities would be allocated the funding needed to create the new classes listed against the initial allocations.

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