Teaching unions welcome government’s “new-found” commitment to school buildings

Teaching unions have welcomed government plans to provide £1bn funding for major school building projects in England.

The Prime Minister yesterday also announced a further £560m for repairs to crumbling school buildings. The NEU says there are currently 3,731 school buildings in urgent need of immediate repair.

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “We welcome the government’s newfound commitment to maintaining school buildings and hope this marks a change in direction. This coming Sunday is the tenth anniversary of Michael Gove’s abolition of the Building Schools for the Future programme, a decision he has since described as one of his worst mistakes.

“There are currently 3,731 school buildings in urgent need of immediate repair. In 2017, the National Audit Office estimated it would cost £6.7bn to bring the school estate up to standard; that figure will now be much higher because there has been three years of decline. The government has cut annual expenditure on school buildings by more than £1 billion in the last two years.

“A building and refurbishment programme is urgently needed. We need the investment spent wisely and not squandered in PFI or PF2 deals.”

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roache said: “The NASUWT has been consistently highlighting the lack of investment in school buildings in recent years which has left many schools in a poor state of repair without the modern facilities they need to best support teaching and learning.

“Additional funding for rebuilding and upgrading school buildings is vital if schools are to improve opportunity for all and address the needs of children and young people now and into the future. Whilst further detail is needed on exactly how many schools will benefit from future additional government spending, it is also vital that investment is delivered urgently to those schools in need to ensure that they can provide a safe environment for teaching and learning.

“A lesson from the coronavirus crisis is that it will be critical that any future investment in school rebuilding is not just about upgrading, but also making schools more resilient and able to adapt in the event of any future challenges or crises that may occur.

“Alongside investment in bricks and mortar, the government must also set out urgently its plans for securing the high-speed and high-quality digital infrastructure that will be key to ensuring that educational opportunities are fully accessible to every child and are not dependent on parents’ ability to pay. No child should be left behind in their education, wherever they are learning.”

 

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