17. What recent progress he has made on the Priority School Building programme. (145470)
We are taking forward the delivery of schools being funded using capital grant. We have appointed contractors to build the first two groups of schools, and construction work is expected to start in May. We are also working with the schools that we believe will form the first three privately financed groups of schools.
The Minister is aware of the case of Hetton school in my constituency; it has been affected by delays to the PFI element of the programme. Parts of the school have been closed due to asbestos, there are falling drainpipes and the heating system is failing. Will the Minister resolve the funding issues as a matter of urgency? The situation facing teachers and pupils simply cannot be allowed to continue.
I am aware of the hon. Lady’s interest in this issue; she has written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about it on a couple of occasions. From the letter that she has already received back, she will be aware of some of the issues arising in getting the batch ready for private finance. I have seen the most recent letter that she sent to the Secretary of State and I would be happy to meet her to discuss the practicalities of these issues further.