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School Buildings

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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The quality of school buildings is central to the quality of pupils' education. High—quality buildings are an essential support for our educational vision of ambitious expectations, specialism and excellence, local collaboration, community involvement and high-quality teaching and learning. We are today publishing a consultative document, "Building Schools for the Future", to take forward a radical approach to improving the stock of school buildings. This document, which is being sent to all schools and other relevant bodies, shows how we aim to reform the way we allocate capital funding, design schools and procure school buildings. Our aim is to transform the conditions in which our secondary school children are educated, and to continue improving the quality of primary schools.Over the last six years, schools and local education authorities have used increasing capital investment to tackle the backlog of repairs caused by decades of under-funding. Capital investment in this period has risen from less than £700 million to £3 billion. This money has been spread relatively evenly across schools and local education authorities. This has been right when most schools and all local education authorities had urgent repair needs, and they have done well in tackling the backlog. But understandably, investment until now has focused on repairs and maintenance, not on achieving systematic structural change. We believe that the most urgent of the backlog will soon have been addressed.The increase in schools capital investment to over £5 billion in 2005–06, announced by the Chancellor last July, gives us the opportunity for a new approach which will aim to support a step change in standards. We can continue existing, successful capital programmes, such as those already available to all schools and local education authorities. But we can do more.The Government commit themselves, in "Building schools for the future", to a programme of rebuilding and renewal to ensure that secondary education in every part of England has facilities of 21st-Century standard. The aim of this programme will be to deliver this goal successfully for every secondary school within 10 to 15 years from 2005–06, subject to future public spending decisions. We will also aim to provide substantial investment in primary school buildings.The programme will be driven by standards—focused plans generated locally—by partnerships of local education authorities, schools, governors and the wider community. Proposals will be prioritised on the basis of agreed criteria, which could include educational standards, deprivation, condition of buildings, and readiness to deliver step change in provision.We need to support local endeavour in the delivery of our aims. Therefore, we are planning a range of exemplar designs for primary and secondary schools as a basis for local decisions about renewal plans. We will consult widely to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are addressed. We also want to reform the procurement process, to address capacity pressures at all levels and to bring innovation and efficiency into the construction of school buildings. We are working on the creation of a new national procurement body for this purpose. A balance of conventional and PFI funding will be used, where each is most appropriate.

We believe this educational vision and new approach to capital investment will benefit all. We aim to have school buildings that:

drive reform of the secondary system and improvements in educational standards;
support teachers' teaching and pupils' learning;
are used by the community;
are well—designed, built on time and at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer, and properly maintained over their lives.

Copies of the launch document will be placed in the Library.