Many school buildings in England are now in such a poor condition that they pose a “life danger”, according to internal government documents leaked to the Foreman.
Emails sent to Downing Street by senior officials working for Education Minister Nadim Zahawi show they have sounded the alarm on two occasions in the past six weeks.
Officials are urgently calling on the Treasury Department to make additional billions available to increase the number of school rebuilding projects from 50 annually to more than 300.
On March 30, as part of the Department of Education’s (DfE) Weekly Update No. 10, senior officials referred to the problem of school building deterioration under the heading ‘Upcoming Risks and Opportunities’.
They say: “School buildings: The deterioration of the state of school ownership remains a risk, with the state of the apartment financed for the fiscal year [financial year] 2022-23, some sites risk to life, lots of costly and energy efficient repairs rather than rebuilding, rebuilding supply x 3 demand. “
The same email goes on to explain how the Department of Education is struggling with the Treasury for the £13 billion, now available as a result of recent reforms in higher education, to spend on school reforms.
“DfE continues to engage HMT to expand the school rebuilding program by a similar amount, as discussed in the spending review negotiations. This includes increasing the number of School Reconstruction Program projects annually from 50 to more than 300.”
On April 4, officials sounded the alarm again under the heading “Risks and Opportunities” and repeated the warning that some school sites posed a “life danger.” The second email adds: “We would like to increase the scale of rebuilding schools.”
These discoveries will put enormous pressure on both No 10 and the Treasury to divert additional billions to keep schools and pupils safe, at a time when they are already facing calls to help millions of low-income people weather the cost-of-living crisis.
On Saturday, Kevin Courtney, the joint secretary general of the National Education Union, blamed years of Tory cuts in capital spending on schools, and said current problems ranged from hazardous roofs to asbestos.
“All children deserve to learn in high-quality, safe and comfortable buildings,” he said. But in 2022-23, equity financing was £1.9 billion less annually in real terms than it had been in the later years of the Labor government. If the government had not cut off Labour’s school rebuilding programme, another £27 billion could have been spent on school and college buildings. So, while any money spent on school buildings is welcome, the scale must be judged against what has been cut, which is 50 times greater.
“The challenges that need to be addressed are huge. Whether the problem that needs to be addressed is potentially dangerous roofs, energy efficiency retrofits to help meet climate commitments, or basic repairs, the challenge is further complicated by the presence of asbestos in many school buildings. The government needs to Show more ambition and urgently address these issues in a strategic manner.”
An official briefing in the House of Commons Library in March of this year titled Building Schools and Financing Capital confirms the massive cuts in capital spending since the Conservative Party came to power in 2010.
It says: “Spending generally followed a downward trend between 2009-10 and 2013-2014 and in the years since spending has fluctuated… Overall, capital spending between 2009-10 and 2021-22 fell 25% in monetary terms and 29% After adjusting to take into account inflation (2021 prices – 22)”.
In a statement to the House of Commons in July 2011, then-education minister Michael Gove said Labour’s design Building Schools for the Future “It was not as effective as it could have been.”
Goff said she did not prioritize schools in the worst conditions, and did not buy new buildings at the cheapest possible price. Instead, Goff founded the Priority School Building Programme, which he said would be available to “all schools – academies, community schools, volunteer schools – and local authorities responsible for maintaining a number of schools.” He said it would address the issues and be available to schools with “the greatest need”.
But the leaked documents confirm a gradual deterioration over the next 11 years, despite repeated warnings of an impending crisis.
Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Education Minister, said: “The Conservatives have failed a generation of children by cutting back on investment in our schools over their 12 years in power.
Their neglect is now putting people’s lives at risk, but the Secretary of State still hasn’t been able to persuade the chancellor to act. Labor will build Britain where children come first, but the Conservatives stand idly by while England’s schools deteriorate.”
in 2019 guardian I mentioned that more than One in six schools in England still needs urgent repairsHe cited warnings about schools “falling apart around teachers and pupils.” According to official data at the time, it was found that 17% (3731) of schools had buildings with “elements”, such as a roof, a wall or a window, that needed immediate action.
Of the 21,796 schools for which information was released, 1,313 had those given the worst possible condition, a grade D, defined as “life ended and/or a serious risk of imminent failure.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “The safety of pupils and staff is of paramount importance. We have one of the largest and most comprehensive survey programs in Europe, and this allows us to assess and manage risks in our buildings. We prioritize buildings where there is a health and safety risk and have invested £11.3 billion since 2015 to improve the condition of school buildings and facilities. In addition, the new School Reconstruction Program will change the learning environment in 500 schools over the next decade.”