Last autumn the Government announced details of the biggest sustained programme of capital investment in schools for over 50 years. Annual capital investment in schools was just under £700 million in 1996-97. By 2011 it is set to rise to £8.2 billion; representing a sevenfold real-terms increase. This unprecedented investment has helped address a significant backlog of work going back over many decades as well as supporting hundreds of new-build schools, including 740 primary schools.
In recent years the emphasis has shifted towards a strategic approach which requires local authorities to consider their whole schools estate and take a long-term view about how capital investment can support wider transformation of teaching and learning; starting with those most in need. Building Schools for the Future was launched in 2004 with the long-term aim of rebuilding or refurbishing all secondary schools. The first completed new built schools came on stream in 2007-08.
Plans for an equally transformational approach to capital investment in primary schools were first announced in 2005. Following an overwhelmingly positive response to consultation in March 2006, the programme got under way with 23 pathfinder authorities in 2007. It will be rolled out nationally to all local authorities from 1 April 2009.
The Primary Capital Programme challenges local authorities to think long-term and strategically about teaching and learning in primary schools in the 21st century and how capital investment can support wider transformation. It commits to renewing at least half of all primary school buildings by 2022-23, creating primary schools that are equipped for 21st century learning, at the heart of their communities, with children’s services in reach of every family.
This marks the start of a £7 billion programme of investment in primary schools. It will be kick-started by £1.75 billion of new capital investment from April 2009. This represents a major injection of new capital investment that will not only benefit children and families but will also provide a welcome boost for the construction industry and local businesses who will be crucial to delivering the new and refurbished primary schools.
Local authorities were advised by the Department last autumn of their indicative share of this funding. To access funding, they were required to prepare and agree with the Department “A Primary Strategy for Change”. The Department issued comprehensive guidance on the content of these strategic plans in December 2007.
All strategies have now been rigorously assessed against the detailed requirements set out in the guidance. The overall picture is encouragingly positive, giving confidence that the transformational objectives of the programme will be delivered. Collectively, local authorities are planning to start projects at more than 1,500 schools over the next three years. Following assessment local authorities were placed in one of three categories;
Category 1—Approved. Assessed as fully meeting the requirements set out in the guidance. Funding for 2009-10 and 2010-11 has been confirmed enabling the LA to plan and procure initial projects. There were 41 local authorities in this category:
Barnet, Bracknell Forest, Bradford, Bromley, Camden, Cornwall, Coventry, Darlington, Devon, Doncaster, Dorset, Ealing, Essex, Gateshead, Gloucestershire, Greenwich, Hackney, Hampshire, Harrow, Hartlepool, Hertfordshire, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Kirklees, Lambeth, Leicester, Lewisham, Lincolnshire, Luton, Middlesbrough, Newham, Portsmouth, Redbridge, Redcar and Cleveland, Richmond upon Thames, Rutland, Tameside, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire.
Category 2—Approved with some modification. Strategies in this category were judged to be generally sound, but with some areas upon which we would welcome further information/reassurance. For local authorities in this category we have confirmed funding for 2009-10, but future funding will be dependent upon confirmation that issues identified have been resolved. There were 92 authorities in this category:
Barking and Dagenham, Barnsley, Bath and North East Somerset, Bedfordshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Bournemouth, Brent, Brighton and Hove, Buckinghamshire, Bury, Calderdale, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Croydon, Cumbria, Derby, Derbyshire, Dudley, Durham, East Riding of Yorkshire, East Sussex, Enfield, Haringey, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Isle of Wight, Islington, Kent, Kingston upon Hull, Knowsley, Lancashire, Leeds, Manchester, Merton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norfolk, North East Lincolnshire, North Somerset, North Tyneside, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Oldham, Oxfordshire, Peterborough, Plymouth, Poole, Reading, Rochdale, Rotherham, Salford, Sandwell, Sefton, Slough, Solihull, Somerset, South Gloucestershire ,South Tyneside, Southampton, Southwark, St. Helens, Staffordshire, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Suffolk, Sunderland, Surrey, Sutton, Swindon, Telford and Wrekin, Torbay, Tower Hamlets, Trafford, Wakefield, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Warrington, West Berkshire, West Sussex, Westminster, Wigan, Wiltshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wirral, Wokingham, York.
Category 3—Further work needed before funding can be released. Strategies in this category had specific issues that must be addressed before funding can be confirmed. There were 15 local authorities in this category:
Bristol, Halton, Hammersmith and Fulham, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Liverpool, Medway, North Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottingham, Sheffield, Shropshire, Southend-on-Sea, Thurrock
Authorities in category 3 have been advised that their plans did not match sufficiently well the detailed guidance provided and the Department is unable to confirm funding at this stage. The Department is providing tailored professional advice and support to help them improve their strategies.
Further details about the programme, together with key programme documentation, are available on the Teachernet website.