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Condition Improvement Fund

Volume 715: debated on Monday 23 May 2022

4. What recent steps his Department has taken to ensure that condition improvement fund allocations reflect the needs of schools and pupils. (900163)

The condition improvement fund addresses significant condition issues in eligible academies, voluntary-aided schools and sixth form colleges. Applications are carefully assessed on condition need, the quality of the project plan and value for money in order to prioritise the most urgent works. We announced the funding of more than 1,400 projects in the last round, including 10 in County Durham.

Leadgate Primary School and Consett Junior School in my constituency hit some of the core criteria outlined in the plan, but at the top of County Durham’s list is Villa Real special school, which does not meet the normal criteria, given that it is less than 25 years old. However, there is a real need for expanded special needs provision in County Durham, and that school has serious structural issues. Can the Minister reassure me that that school will be looked at properly, even though it does not fit the traditional criteria?

I recognise that my hon. Friend is a great champion of his schools. I believe that this is a local authority-maintained school. Local authorities receive condition allocations to improve their school buildings. Instead of the school applying to the condition improvement fund, Durham County Council will receive £6.6 million for the 2022-23 year. We have also announced £1.4 billion of investment for the financial years 2022-23 and 2023-24 to improve existing high needs provision, of which Durham will receive £11.2 million.

The reality is that the schools estate is crumbling after 12 years of Tory negligence. In 2019, the Government’s own survey revealed that one in six schools required urgent repairs, and the Minister’s own Department is warning that some school sites present a risk to life. Millions of children are learning in buildings that are not fit for purpose, so can he tell us whether he has had any success in securing funding from the Chancellor and whether he is confident that every school building in England is safe for the children who learn in it?

The safety of pupils and staff is paramount. We have one of the largest condition data collection programmes in Europe, which helps us to assess and manage risk across the estate. Through our programmes, we prioritise buildings where there is a risk to health and safety. We have invested more than £13 billion since 2015 in improving the condition of school buildings and facilities, which includes £1.8 billion committed this year. In addition, our new school rebuilding programme will transform the learning environment at 500 schools over the next decade and will prioritise evidence of severe need and safety issues.