Pupils’ education ‘put at risk’ as Government delays cash verdict

Bradford councillor Ralph Berry with Elaine Shoesmith, headmistress at Aire Valley School, Bingley, which missed out on the Building Schools for the Future programme  and is now one of a number of Bradford schools facing a crisis

Bradford councillor Ralph Berry with Elaine Shoesmith, headmistress at Aire Valley School, Bingley, which missed out on the Building Schools for the Future programme and is now one of a number of Bradford schools facing a crisis

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AN EDUCATION boss has warned that failure to urgently rebuild dilapidated schools will harm pupils’ education after the Government confirmed it has still not decided where cash on a major building scheme will be spent.

The Department for Education was supposed to announce in December last year which schools would be given funding to replace buildings in the worst condition in the country.

Officials have confirmed, however, that decisions are still being worked on – three months after councils and schools were expecting to hear whether bids had been successful. The Government agency Partnership for Schools is said to be working to ensure the process is “fair and rigorous.”

The Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) was set up to fund to completely replace crumbling schools or to provide extra space in areas facing major shortages.

Bids worth £225m were submitted from across Yorkshire to the Government late last year.

This included applications from six councils which were hit by the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

Bradford, Doncaster, Kirklees, Rotherham, North East Lincolnshire and Wakefield schools lost £1bn on school rebuilding projects which already had initial approval when BSF was scrapped. Now these authorities are still waiting to hear if they will receive cash from the new fund.

Schools qualify for PSBP money if their backlog of repairs costs around a third or more of what it would cost to replace them entirely. Ministers will also consider bids for projects which provide extra places in areas facing a shortage.

Bradford needs to provide an extra 5,000 primary and secondary places by 2016.

The Bradford bid to PSBP included plans to create two new secondary schools and work which could cost £50m to replace four secondaries.

Coun Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children and young people’s services said: “The failure to deliver this programme so far is truly shocking. These are schools which are in urgent need of replacing.”

Officials in Bradford say the extra places are needed to accommodate the increase in the city’s pupil population.

Coun Berry added: “If new school buildings are not provided urgently there could be serious consequences – we are talking about it damaging young people’s education.”

Calderdale Council’s bid for more than £24m is for three schools: Todmorden High, Calder High and Moorside Primary which the authority says are all in need of urgent improvement.

Todmorden High has previously been forced to cope in the space of a week with an evacuation following a gas leak, water being cut off after a boiler failure and a power cut.

Hull Council has bid for £25m to replace 12 primary schools while Kirklees Council’s application for around £40m includes plans to create a new primary school to serve the Crosland Moor area and provide more space at four schools including Batley Grammar – which has converted from the private sector to become Yorkshire’s first free school.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “Partnerships for Schools are currently reviewing applications to the PSBP to ensure there is a fair and rigorous selection of schools. Until all applications have been fully assessed we are not able to announce which schools will be in the programme. It is incredibly important this process is done properly and we have always been clear that this will take time. We will make an announcement in due course.

“Alongside this we are addressing the need for more school places by more than doubling targeted investment at areas facing the greatest pressure on numbers – to over £4bn by 2015.”

The new buildings will be developed under a 27-year private finance initiative deal with schools paying charges for cleaning, management and maintenance.

Applications from Yorkshire cover plans to rebuild or expand more than 40 schools. Nationally between 100 and 300 bids are expected to be given the go ahead.

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