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School Estate (Investment)

Volume 592: debated on Monday 9 February 2015

Today, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Schools and I have announced over £6 billion of investment to improve the condition of the school estate. Investing in our school buildings is a key part of the Government’s long term economic plan to secure Britain’s future. It will help to ensure children across the country can enjoy schools which are safe, good quality and fit for learning, and it will help to build a fairer society.

First, we will invest around £2 billion in rebuilding and major refurbishment projects, to address the needs of school buildings in the very worst condition. We can confirm today that 277 schools will have the condition need in one or more of their buildings addressed under the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme. As a result, thousands more pupils will see their learning environments transformed. This is in addition to the 260 schools being rebuilt or having their need addressed under the first phase of the programme.

Secondly, we are announcing today over £4 billion worth of allocations to schools, local authorities, academy trusts and voluntary aided partnerships to fund the improvement and maintenance of our schools. For the first time in years, we have reliable information on the condition of school buildings from the Property Data Survey—the most comprehensive survey of the school estate ever undertaken. All of those responsible for schools will now receive funding in proportion to the size and condition of their schools. Where necessary, we are providing additional support to those responsible for schools with the most severe condition need.

We know that being taught in school buildings in poor condition can have an adverse effect on pupil attainment. The reforms we are announcing today are a major step towards ensuring that all children have access to a learning environment which is safe and fit for purpose, no matter where they live.

We recognise that good investment decisions require certainty and stability. This is why the funding we have announced today will cover, for the first time, three years, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, giving local authorities, academy trusts and voluntary aided partnerships some much-needed certainty. They can now plan effectively and make good strategic investment decisions that deliver the best possible value for their schools.

Investment decisions have a direct and significant impact on local schools and their pupils and it is important that those decisions are open and transparent. We want to do more to empower local schools and communities to engage with and hold local decision-makers to account for their investment decisions. So we are announcing today that we will collect information from all bodies responsible for the maintenance of the school estate on how they have used their funding. The information will be simple, high-level and easily accessible to the public.

Today’s announcements bring us much closer to delivering the aims of Sebastian James’ Review of school capital—to ensure that our capital investment in the school estate provides excellent value for money and, ultimately, gets money to those schools and pupils that need it most.

Details of today’s announcements will be sent to those who will be receiving funding or investment and be published online at: Copies will be placed in the House Library.