Wednesday, 7 July 2010

New Schools....shattered dreams?

Sarah Teather MP spoke about the Building Schools for the Future Pogramme in the House of Commons, July 1st 2004:

As a result of the budgetary pressures, Brent LEA spends a much higher percentage of its school budget on pay—85 to 90 per cent., compared with an average of about 70 per cent. for other LEAs. That is highly significant. High wage costs result in reduced funding for other areas; that is common sense. Brent cannot provide the teaching assistants that it feels it needs; it cannot refurbish buildings; and it has a higher proportion of schools in budget deficit than the rest of London. Some 12 Brent primary schools, about 20 per cent; of the borough's total, are in deficit, compared with 12 per cent. in Greater London. Five Brent secondary schools are in deficit, 37 per cent of the total, compared with 24 per cent in Greater London.

Refurbishment is a particular concern for such schools. The executive summary of the Government's consultation document, "Building Schools for the Future", stated: "School buildings are important to pupils' education." The research showed a clear link between capital investment and school standards. In practical terms, the budgetary pressure has prevented the council from taking action to replace the portakabins in the John Kelly secondary schools.

Brent has a poor stock of school buildings; the lack of available cash for maintenance means that many have a large backlog of minor repairs that may well be more expensive to fix now than if they had been dealt with sooner. Brent is desperate to be part of the second wave of "Building Schools for the Future", which is due to be announced in the autumn. At the moment, some schools are forgoing expenditure in the hope—indeed the expectation—that BSF funding will be made available soon.

On Monday Brent Council said:

Brent Council heard today of Government plans to cut the national Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Four schools will now miss out on an initial investment worth £80m.

Councillor Ann John, Leader of the Council said: "This is dreadful news for Brent. The withdrawal of funding will have a devastating impact on the educational opportunities of Brent's students for generations to come.

"The rising population in the borough has meant a shortage of school places and with many of our schools in poor condition, this investment was vital.

"We will be drawing on the support of our MPs to argue our case to Government for this much-needed investment that goes beyond new buildings.

"Without funding Brent will not be able to meet the demand for pupil places in the future."

Brent awaits further information from the Department of Education.

I await comment from Sarah Teather MP.

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