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Priority School Building Programme 2

Volume 623: debated on Monday 20 March 2017

The £4.4 billion priority school building programme is rebuilding and refurbishing those schools in the very worst condition. There are two phases covering 537 schools. Phase 2, which runs to 2021, sought bids from schools by the deadline of 21 July 2014, and is designed to improve the fabric of specific buildings in 277 schools.

The Marjorie McClure school in Chislehurst is a special school that deals with young people with some of the most profound and complex disabilities. It is a magnificent school, but every year it has to turn applicants away because it simply does not have the size to cope with the numbers, and neither do the other two special schools in the borough. The school was delighted to be successful in its application, which was announced in 2015, but the first visit from anyone from the Education Funding Agency to the school was only in February of this year. Will the Minister see what can be done to expedite this particularly special and unique set of circumstances?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the way in which he has fought for improvements to the Marjorie McClure school, which was visited by my hon. Friend the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families. It was successful in its bid, and it is already in the feasibility phase. The Education Funding Agency has started to identify the options available to address the condition of the building, so that we can say that we do know where and we do know when.

Headteacher Steve Campbell, who runs The Hollins, a fantastic state school with great results in my constituency, has had problems trying to provide better sports facilities. He was supposed to have Better Schools for the Future funding in 2010, but that was pulled. It now seems that there is no hope of the children in this outstanding school getting decent sports facilities. Why is that?

There is £420 million available under the healthy schools capital programme. That is all part of £23 billion that we are spending between now and 2020-21 to maintain, rebuild and replace buildings in the worst condition. None of that would be possible if we did not have the strong economy that we have today and that we did not have when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in power.

I thank the Government for the new fund that has been made available for capital projects on special schools, £2.5 million of which is coming to Nottinghamshire to help rebuild the Newark Orchard school in my constituency. Will the Government go to greater efforts to publicise that fund so that colleagues and constituents across the country who are worried about special schools in poor condition know that it is there for them?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. This is a £250 million package that was recently announced, and it is part of a capital spending commitment by this Government to ensure that we have the right fabric of schools in our system. Again, that was possible only by our having a strong economy.

Has the removal and treatment of asbestos been prioritised within that programme? Many buildings of the ‘60s and ‘70s are riddled with asbestos, and we do not know the exact extent yet.

The hon. Gentleman is right. In March 2015, we published a comprehensive review into how asbestos is managed in schools. In February, the Department for Education published revised guidance on how to manage asbestos in schools, and it is our aim, over time, to eliminate asbestos in schools as schools are replaced or refurbished. In the meantime, schools need to ensure that asbestos-containing materials are undamaged and not in locations where they are vulnerable to damage.