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School Buildings: Refurbishment

Volume 710: debated on Monday 14 March 2022

I recently met my hon. Friend, who has been a persistent champion of his local school. The Department provides funding annually to improve school buildings and has allocated £11.3 billion since 2015, including £1.8 billion this financial year. We have also opened the next round of our school rebuilding programme, which will transform 500 schools over the next decade.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. He will know full well that I have been supporting the Gryphon School in Sherborne to fix its dilapidated temporary classrooms. The school has just submitted a severe needs funding request in order for us to replace those temporary classrooms. Will he review that and support the submission so that we can fix the issue?

I recognise that my hon. Friend has consistently pressed the case for his old school in this Chamber and through meetings with myself and with colleagues in the Lords. The next round of our school rebuilding programme has now opened. We expect to select around 300 projects this year, and our aim is to prioritise those with the greatest condition needs. I welcome the fact that a bid has gone in from his school, demonstrating that condition need. Although I can assure him that he has done everything that he can to draw the attention of our Department to these issues, he will understand that I cannot commit to any individual school until the selection process is complete.

I cannot begin to describe how much Sale High School in my constituency needs a rebuild. There is a local financial solution on the table, which is being put at risk by Department for Education delays. Will the Minister commit to helping me bring this to a resolution today?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I just gave. Of course I am happy to make sure that the Department looks carefully at any individual bid of schools, especially where there is particular condition need. If he would like to write to me, I shall have a look at that case.

Last week I visited Derby High School in my constituency. It is a brilliant school with a fantastic senior leadership team and kids who are achieving their potential, but the structure of the building must match the ambition of each child within the school. It has been nominated for the school rebuilding programme. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me to see what this Government can do to deliver for children in Bury something that the Labour local authority is not doing?

I am happy to meet my hon. Friend. I understand that he has consistently championed the case of children in Bury. As I have mentioned, we have met other colleagues to discuss projects of this nature, so I am sure either I or my colleague in the Lords will be happy to meet him.

Joseph Leckie Academy has still not received the full amount that was allocated under Building Schools for the Future in 2010. Will the Minister please come and visit so that he can see the toilets, the school hall and the dining area, which are in desperate need of refurbishment?

It is always a pleasure to get an invitation to visit a school; I shall certainly consult my diary to see when I might be able to take the right hon. Lady up on that.

Ashlawn School in my constituency is outstanding, with currently the longest waiting list for secondary places in Warwickshire. There is a need to renovate many of the school’s 1950s buildings but, regrettably, it does not meet the funding criteria for the school rebuilding programme. Do the Secretary of State or the Minister have any advice for Ashlawn on how it can get buildings that are comparable to the outstanding education it offers?

The Department provides capital through a number of routes. There is, of course, devolved capital to local authorities and to multi-academy trusts, so my hon. Friend might want to look at what opportunities are available through that or through the condition improvement fund, in addition to the school rebuilding programme I have already discussed.

On the subject of Department for Education delays, residents in Newcastle North are concerned that the new Great Park Academy may be unable to open on schedule next September. Original plans were for an opening in 2020, but that has now been postponed to 2023 and the school is currently in temporary accommodation on another high school’s site. We need to see progress on this urgently. I have written to the Minister and asked for a meeting to discuss the cause of the delays. After all the disruption of the past two years, we must deliver stability for our young people. Will he work with me to ensure that we can unblock what is delaying this project?

The Minister will know of Westgarth Primary School in Marske, which is in desperate need of urgent building works. May I invite him to visit Redcar and Cleveland in the near future, to meet me and the Galileo Trust to see what can be done to support the school, its pupils and its fantastic teachers?

It sounds as though my diary will be very full, but I would certainly be delighted to come to my hon. Friend’s constituency.