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Dorset Schools: Quality of Classrooms

Volume 717: debated on Monday 4 July 2022

Improving the condition of schools is a priority for the Department, which is why we have allocated more than £13 billion for that purpose since 2015, including £1.8 billion committed this year. Dorset local authority was allocated £2.3 million to invest in maintained schools this year and there were five successful condition improvement fund projects approved.

I hope I am not giving my hon. Friend the Minister a headache by keeping on reminding him about The Gryphon School in Sherborne, but it desperately needs its temporary classrooms to be replaced. I shall be grateful to hear from him on that. Furthermore, will he help me with Dorchester Middle School? The school, which is nearly 100 years old, has lodged a bid to replace boilers that do not work, and its bid for capital improvement funds has been rejected. Will he help me with expediting these issues?

I know that my hon. Friend has passionately and repeatedly made the case to Ministers for investment in replacing temporary buildings at The Gryphon School. Nominations to the school rebuilding programme are being assessed, and we expect to confirm up to 300 schools this year. He will understand that I cannot make commitments to an individual school at this stage. I understand that the Dorchester Middle School submitted an appeal to its unsuccessful condition improvement fund application. All appeals are now being carefully considered, and we expect to announce outcomes shortly.

I know that schools in Dorset applied to the schools rebuilding programme. I know, too, that the Minister appreciates the importance of informing schools of their place on the programme as soon as possible. However, Under-Secretary of State for Education Baroness Barran told me that schools will be informed later this year. Can the Minister say when schools in Dorset and Lydiate Primary School in my constituency will be told whether they will receive the money that they desperately need?

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has also pressed the case for Lydiate Primary School previously. The Department has engaged with the school and Sefton local authority, and we are aware that it was disappointed not to be included in the first two rounds of the rebuilding programme. All local authorities, including Sefton Council, were contacted about how they can nominate schools for the next round. We do expect to announce schools that were successful later this year, but some of them will be informed sooner.