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West Dorset Constituency: Replacement of Temporary Classrooms

Volume 723: debated on Monday 28 November 2022

11. What recent steps her Department has taken to ensure that dilapidated temporary classrooms in the West Dorset constituency are being replaced. (902437)

The Department provides annual funding to improve the condition of school buildings, and has committed £1.8 billion this financial year, including £2.3 million for Dorset Council. The Government’s school rebuilding programme will transform buildings in 500 schools over the next decade, prioritising those in the poorest condition and those with safety issues.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his kind answer. He will remember that I asked him this question when he was last at the Dispatch Box, and indeed I have asked the Chair of the Select Committee the same question many a time. My former secondary school, the Gryphon School in Sherborne, has reached a point at which the temporary classrooms are so bad that there has been a request for severe needs funding to sort them out. These are temporary classrooms in which I was schooled 25 years ago, and we have been asking about this matter for a very long time. Will my right hon. Friend kindly prioritise our request, so that the school can bring about the vital improvements that are required? I would be delighted to hear when that might happen.

My hon. Friend has meticulously, passionately and repeatedly made the case to Government for investment in the replacement of temporary buildings at the Gryphon School. Bids for the school rebuilding programme are being assessed by officials, and we expect to confirm the selection of up to 300 schools during the current financial year—in fact, we hope to make an announcement by the end of December.

The issue of school buildings is as relevant in West Dorset as it is in the rest of the country, not least because we do not know how many buildings may pose a risk to life. Given that more than one in six schools in England are in need of urgent repair, will the Minister commit himself immediately to publishing the underlying data from the Condition of School Buildings Survey—or is he happy to sweep it under the carpet?

It was this Government who started the national surveys of the condition of the school estate, and we continually keep that data up to date. Well-maintained, safe school buildings are a priority for the Government, which is why we have allocated more than £13 billion since 2015 to keeping schools safe and operational. That includes £1.8 billion in this financial year.