I am today announcing plans for a second phase of the Priority School Building programme.
Education is one of the Government’s highest priorities. Even during a difficult economic climate, we have continued to invest in our education estate to ensure that the fabric of our schools is maintained and improved. Our aim is that every child will have a good-quality school place in school buildings which are safe and fit for purpose. That is why over the course of this Parliament we are spending a total of £18 billion on school buildings. Thanks to the decisions we have taken to improve efficiency and reduce waste in central school building programmes, this Government are building or improving the condition of almost 900 schools—twice as many as the previous Government. This includes building almost 300 brand new schools, rebuilding and renovating 200 of the most dilapidated schools in the country, and delivering funding for more than 400 projects from previous programmes. Coming on top of building work undertaken by local authorities, the coalition is delivering central Government’s biggest contribution to the school estate in decades.
Our first priority is to ensure every child has a place at school which is why we have more than doubled funding for new school places in areas of need to £5 billion. By last May, this had already led to the creation of 260,000 places, with thousands more on stream.
It is also critically important that children can learn in a safe and secure environment. Too many schools are in a poor condition, while previous school building programmes targeted funding according to factors such as pupil attainment, rather than the condition of the existing buildings. As a result, many of the most dilapidated schools in the country missed out on funding.
That is why we launched the Priority School Building programme, to address need at 261 schools with buildings in the worst condition. Successful applicants were announced on 24 May 2012 and all schools are due to be opened by the end of 2017, two years ahead of schedule. Design work has begun at 234 schools, 28 schools are under construction, and today Whitmore Park in Coventry has become the first school to have its new building opened under the Priority School Building programme.
Building on the work of the James review, the Priority School Building programme is being delivered much more efficiently and at much better value for money than the Building Schools for the Future programme: at a number of schools work has begun in half the time, while costs have been cut by up to 40%.
But we want to do more, building on the success of the Priority School Building programme. So today I am announcing that, as part of our capital expenditure over the next spending review period from 2015-21, we will fund a second phase of the Priority School Building programme, with a value of around £2 billion.
The original Priority School Building programme worked on the basis of the condition of the whole school site. We will now refine this to look at targeting individual school buildings, as well as whole school rebuilds where this is appropriate, so that the Department can focus much more tightly on addressing specific issues in the estate. This is only possible thanks to the data coming out of our detailed condition survey. That survey will be complete by the summer and will give us a detailed pattern of need which will be a useful tool for targeting the available resources most effectively.
Through this extension to our already successful programme we are helping more schools and ensuring we target more money directly at those schools in the worst condition.
Copies of the application guidelines will be available from the Libraries of both Houses. Details of how schools will be selected for the new phase of the Priority School Building programme will follow shortly, and will be published on the Department for Education’s website.