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Primary Education (Cheshire)

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

The Petition of residents in Farndon and its surrounding district in the Eddisbury Parliamentary Constituency in the County of Cheshire and those interested in the maintenance of primary education in Farndon,

Declares that the maintenance of primary education at Farndon School is vital for the interests of current and future pupils and is of crucial importance and benefit to the wider communities which it serves as an essential component of education in Cheshire; that the state of the buildings, classrooms and common facilities is wholly inadequate; that provision of suitable areas for recreation is in grave need of being made available, or brought up to standard to meet the needs of the children at the school; that the research in its design, costings and planning of the necessary improvements, as detailed in the school’s feasibility plan, are well advanced and offer a best practice, value for money solution to the current deficit of provision; and that the education authority, Cheshire West and Chester Council, provides the resources necessary to enable the school’s feasibility plan to be put into effect.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to take steps to promote the proposal to make adequate provision at Farndon Primary School and re-dedicates its support for the continuing high quality education at this establishment.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Stephen O'Brien, Official Report, 13 July 2009; Vol. 496, c. 128 .]

[P000389]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, received on 17 August 2009:

Cheshire has seen a dramatic increase in schools capital funding in recent years. In 1996-97 it was allocated £10.4 million, and this has risen to nearly £118 million for the three year period 2008-09 to 2010-11. Much of the devolved funding is allocated at local authority level, for the local authority to allocate between primary and secondary schools as it sees fit. This applies, particularly, to modernisation funding and basic need funding for expansion.

Specifically, for the two years 2009-10 and 2010-11, the newly formed Cheshire West and Chester has been allocated over £42 million. This includes £7 million for modernisation, £1.9 million for basic need, and £7.5 million for primary capital. Other amounts within the total have been given to schools directly as Devolved Formula Capital, also for programmes such as ICT and for extended schools.

The Primary Capital Programme (PCP), commits to renewing at least half of all primary school buildings by 2022-23. The aim is to create primary schools that are equipped for 21st-century teaching and learning, and are at the heart of their communities with children’s services in reach of every family. The programme encourages and supports local authorities to take a long-term strategic approach to capital investment and to transform teaching and learning in primary schools, with the Children’s Plan at its heart. The programme overall is supported by £1.9 billion of capital investment in the period 2008-11.

To access PCP funding all authorities were asked to prepare and submit to the Department a Primary Strategy for Change (PSfC). Before the unitary changes, Cheshire County Council delivered a “strategy for change” document which did not include Farndon School as one of the priority projects for Cheshire West and Cheshire.

Local authorities and schools have a duty to care for the premises through use of their annual Devolved Formula Capital (DFC). This is an amount allocated each year to primary and secondary schools to be spent by them on their priorities in respect of buildings, ICT and other capital need. It may be combined with capital funding from other sources, pooled with DFC allocated to other schools, and saved up to fund larger projects. Priorities are set at school level, but should have regard to planned expenditure in a local authority’s asset management plan.

Decisions about how to prioritise capital investment are best made locally; it is for the Council to prioritise the schools in the project, deciding when each school will receive investment and the scope of work at individual schools, in the context of the overall funding allocation. We would expect a range of factors to be taken into account in making these decisions, including (but not limited to) current educational standards, levels of deprivation and the condition, suitability and size of the existing buildings and sites.

Good asset management is essential for schools if funding and assets are to be used efficiently and effectively to support the aims of the Children’s Plan. Asset management guidance was first published by the DCSF around 10 years ago; however, the content and format of this guidance was revised in November 2008. Local Authorities (LAs) use school Asset Management Plans to provide the framework within which capital investment needs are assessed and prioritised. This is undertaken in partnership with schools and other local partners in an open, transparent and consultative manner. The information collated helps schools, LAs and the other partners to make informed spending decisions on the repair, renewal and improvement of premises, and thereby targets resources for maintenance where they are needed most.