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Building Schools for the Future

Volume 478: debated on Monday 30 June 2008

Following the selection of eight authorities for an accelerated start this summer, announced on 23 June, 80 local authorities are now engaged in BSF. With 13 BSF schools now open and 23 more to open in September, rising to 200 a year from 2011, there is real pace and momentum in the programme. We are consulting on the management of waves seven to 15, and we will announce details of when the remaining local authorities will join BSF when that process has concluded.

I represent one of the most deprived areas in Stockport and the UK, and the attainment of the young people in the area at GCSE grades A* to C is significantly worse than that of young people in other parts of the borough. The schools they attend need either rebuilding or extensive repairs. I hope that Stockport will bid for BSF capital, and I hope it will be successful, but does my hon. Friend agree that that bid is an opportunity for Stockport to bring forward proposals that will improve the attainment of young people in this particularly deprived area and enhance their life chances?

I agree with my hon. Friend. She has been a hearty champion of the needs of the children she represents, and in particular their attainment and the relationship with the BSF programme. It is important that the Liberals, who run the council concerned, understand in submitting their strategy for change that it is more than a building programme; it is about educational transformation. While I cannot prejudge the outcome of the consultation, which closes this week, the proposals it contains include criteria additional to those of educational and social need in the prioritisation of projects, and ensuring that deliverability and readiness to deliver are important aspects of the new programme.

It is up to the hon. Gentleman’s friends in the Isle of Wight council to come forward with the appropriate plans. We have increased tenfold the amount of capital allocation to local authorities. As I have just explained, we are currently consulting—that will finish this week—on the authorities that are in waves seven to 15 of the BSF programme. That includes the Isle of Wight. If it can put in a good enough proposal that meets the criteria that will be agreed around the turn of the year, and that includes Cowes high school, it is possible that the rebuilding could be moved forward.

I ask my hon. Friend to remember that the Education and Skills Committee conducted a thorough inquiry into BSF. There was a Treasury examination of the programme at that time, which I think is still going on, but does he recall that the key recommendations we made were that the new buildings must be more sustainable in this age of climate change, and that new ways of teaching and learning needed far more research and implementation in these schools?

I remember well the Select Committee inquiry that my hon. Friend chaired, and I am looking forward to returning to the Select Committee in due course to discuss the latest inquiry into BSF. Sustainability is important; all schools in BSF must meet the minimum environmental standard of BREEAM—Building Research Establishment environmental assessment method—“very good”. We have released additional funding for 234 schools in BSF and the academies programme to support the implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in school sites to enable this requirement to be met, and we have a zero carbon task force which is looking to go beyond that. On teaching and learning, as I have said, this is an educational transformation programme, and not just a school building programme. How we can use the opportunities of a new environment to inform better teaching and learning is a fundamental part of what authorities need to consider when they submit their strategy for change.

May I first say to my hon. Friend how pleased I and the people of Tamworth are that we are in one of the accelerated schemes, with up to £100 million being spent on our schools by our Labour Government? However, given that it is an accelerated scheme, he will appreciate that we had little time for consultation. Can he therefore give me, and my constituents, a guarantee that consultation will be meaningful and that if we come out at the end with a different model, that will be given full consideration if we have to change the original concept?

It is certainly important that parents and local communities be consulted as authorities plan for and deliver the huge investment that the Government are putting into schools in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I am very happy to discuss further with him his concerns about the current plans, if he needs to reflect them on his constituents’ behalf.