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House of Commons Hansard
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27 October 2014
Volume 587
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8. What steps her Department is taking to improve school buildings where most needed. [905635]

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10. What steps her Department is taking to improve school buildings where most needed. [905638]

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Investment in the school estate is one of the Government’s highest priorities. This Government will invest £5.6 billion on maintenance and improving the condition of school buildings between 2011 and 2015. In addition, the £2.4 billion priority school building programme is addressing 260 schools in the worst condition.

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Parents in Pendle are delighted with three brand new primary school buildings that opened in September, but many more schools in Pendle are in need of improvement. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister and our Secretary of State be willing to visit Pendle to see the progress we have made, but also some of the challenges our schools still face?

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I am delighted to hear about the new school buildings opening in my hon. Friend’s constituency. The Secretary of State notes the kind invitation she has received and will try to find time to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency in the near future.

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What steps are being taken to support the installation of energy-efficient measures such as solar panels, similar to the ones installed at the outstanding Helsby high school in my constituency of Weaver Vale?

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The Government are committed to helping schools to become greener and more energy efficient. That is why we have invested £20 million so far in the Salix energy efficiency loan scheme, supporting a wide range of energy-efficiency technologies with projected energy savings in excess of £40 million.

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Earlier this month, I was pleased to visit the outstanding St John Bosco college in Croxteth in my constituency to see its brand new buildings. Bosco is one of the schools that lost out when the Government cancelled Building Schools for the Future in 2010. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the school and the Labour mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, on ensuring that the rebuilding of Bosco went ahead?

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I am always delighted to see new school estate being built and improved. I am delighted also to say that in a few months the Government will be able to announce multi-year allocations of maintenance money across England, as well as a Priority School Building programme 2 that will be targeted at schools in the worst condition across the country.

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St John’s Catholic academy in Kidsgrove is one of the schools that lost out back in 2010 when it should have had a new school building on what are currently two separate sites. When the Minister comes to announce the successful bids for phase 2 of the Priority School Building programme, will he make sure that that Kidsgrove school is included, and will he take account of the substantial subsidence on the older site and make sure that we have a school building fit for education?

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We have now received all the bids for the Priority School Building programme 2. We are assessing those and hope to make decisions towards the end of this year. As a consequence of the points that the hon. Lady makes, I will take a particularly close look at the school that she mentions.

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Will the Minister join me in congratulating the John Wallis Church of England academy in south Ashford? Its results have been transformed since it became an academy, and this term it has been transformed physically, with new buildings giving top-class provision for both academic and vocational subjects. Will he also welcome the fact that these new buildings were provided at considerably less expense than would have been incurred under the previous Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme?

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My right hon. Friend is right. I am delighted to hear about the new buildings in his constituency. We are not only allocating a massive amount of money for improving the school building stock and making sure that there are extra places, but we are building new schools at a considerably reduced cost, compared with the very expensive Building Schools for the Future programme.

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Balaam Wood academy in my constituency needs vital rebuilding work in order to secure its future serving one of the most deprived parts of Birmingham. It was in line for Building Schools for the Future money, but, as we know, that was scrapped. It is still waiting to hear whether it will get support under the Priority School Building programme, but if schools like that in local authorities try to use their own land and assets creatively to finance such things, they face massive bureaucracy from the Department. Why do the Department and Ministers make it so easy for free schools to get capital and so difficult for local authority schools?

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If the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the school in his constituency, I would be happy to meet him to discuss it. We would want to remove any bureaucracy where schools are sensibly trying to draw together capital plans, but we also have the Priority School Building programme and the ongoing academies capital maintenance fund. They are satisfying the condition needs of many schools across the country.