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Condition of School Buildings

Volume 702: debated on Monday 1 November 2021

We have allocated £11.3 billion since 2015 to improve the condition of schools, including £1.8 billion in this financial year. Our new school rebuilding programme will transform 500 schools over the next decade. We expect to start the selection process for the next round by early 2022.

Ilkley Grammar School in my constituency has a roof prone to leaking, has internal damage and is in desperate need of repair. Last year, the situation got worse, with the roof collapsing in a small part of the school. Unfortunately, Ilkley Grammar School has already had two bids to the condition improvement fund for a roof replacement rejected. Following last week’s news of more funding for schools, may I make an urgent plea to the Minister that he consider granting funding for any future proposal that we submit?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing the case of Ilkley Grammar School to my attention, which he has certainly done effectively. The condition improvement fund prioritises significant condition need, keeping buildings safe and in good working order. It has supported more than 1,400 projects at more than 1,200 schools and sixth forms during the current financial year. Applications for the 2022-23 round will be assessed according to the criteria that will be published shortly.

I’ve only got three kids. [Laughter.]

Anyway, the lovely market town of Sleaford is growing, which is causing capacity issues for both the boys’ and the girls’ grammar school sites, which are fairly constrained in the town centre. Thanks to the bequest of a very generous lady, the school has identified a site for a joint grammar school building. May I ask my hon. Friend for his support and that of the Government as part of the school rebuilding programme?

I know that my hon. Friend has championed this issue, and indeed has been visited by Ministers from the Department, including the former Minister for the School System, Baroness Berridge. The school rebuilding programme will be targeted at schools in the worst condition. While I understand that there are merits in the proposed relocation and merger, we must make hard decisions about how we prioritise use of the Department’s budget, but of course I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend and discuss this further.

The grounds of Tipton St John Primary School in East Devon have been flooded for the second time in a week. Previous flooding of the school led the Environment Agency and the Department for Education to warn of a risk to life. Earlier this year, plans to move the school to Ottery St Mary were rejected by local councillors. Will my hon. Friend please include flood risk in the criteria for the next phase of the school rebuilding programme?

As one who represents a constituency where schools have been flooded, I am sympathetic to the issues my hon. Friend has raised. The Department is aware of the flood risk to the school, and is working with the relevant parties to find a solution. We have consulted on how to select schools for the next round of the school rebuilding programme, and we are currently considering the extent to which flood risk will be part of the selection criteria, alongside other condition and safety concerns.

May I again call attention to a physical safety issue in schools in England? Sprinklers are already mandatory in Scotland and Wales. What recent assessment has the Secretary of State made of the benefit of mandatory sprinkler systems in English school buildings?

This is certainly an issue which the Department keeps under review, and I should be happy to speak to the hon. Lady about it in more detail.