Government cuts to school building 'deprive pupils'

EDUCATION bosses say the decision to halt almost 100 school rebuilding projects in the region will leave parts of it with a shortage of places and deprive generations of pupils of 21st-century learning.

The scrapping of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) projects across the region means councils have wasted millions of pounds preparing plans which will now not take place.

The cuts include ditching plans to provide new buildings at a secondary school which was ravaged by fire last year.

A spokesman for Doncaster Council said pupils at Campsmount Technology College would now continue to be educated in temporary school buildings.

There are 82 schools across the region which have seen rebuilding or refurbishing schemes axed and a further 11 which could still be shelved which will now be decided on a case-by-case basis by Ministers.

Doncaster and Kirklees have each had 22 school rebuilding or refurbishment schemes cancelled.

Bradford Council has lost funding for 16 refurbishments at existing schools and the creation of two new special needs schools for pupils with communication disorders and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The authority has already spent 1.8m developing its latest BSF plans.

Rotherham, Wakefield and North East Lincolnshire have also seen their BSF schemes scrapped while school rebuilding plans in Calderdale, the East Riding, North Yorkshire, York which had yet to be accepted onto the Government programme now look very unlikely to receive funding.

The six councils in the region which have had projects cancelled by Education Secretary Michael Gove's announcement are set to lose around 1bn.

However there was better news for Hull Council where BSF plans were approved in March and have survived the cuts.

Mr Gove told MPs on Monday that all projects which had reached "financial close" would receive funding but any in development stages would be axed.

For Bradford this means missing out on 337m.

The council's executive member for young people and education Coun Ralph Berry said: "This is a devastating blow for Bradford which will leave our schools with a shortage of at least 3,000 places. Even if we got the funding places would have been tight."

The Labour councillor said the cuts would undermine efforts to drive up standards.

He said: "We now need to start a campaign to get funding for these schools by whatever means is available and I need all MPs who did not tell us that their parties were planning this to get behind it."

Coun Berry also criticised the Government for not informing education authorities or schools ahead of the announcement in Parliament on Monday.

Doncaster's Mayor Peter Davies said the cuts were "unfortunate but unavoidable" because of the deficit left by the last Government but Don Valley Labour MP Caroline Flint condemned the move to axe more than 20 projects in Doncaster as disgraceful.

Peter Dale, Doncaster Council's director of development, said: "Following guidance from Partnerships for Schools – the agency which delivers BSF – our plans for Campsmount Technology College were taken out of the BSF programme so we could prioritise the building of a new school following the recent fire. However, the Government's announcement has also stopped these plans."

Earlsheaton Technology College in Dewsbury was among the schools in Kirklees which has had its funding withdrawn.

Head teacher Paul Levey said classrooms in the 1950s buildings were too small. "These cuts will deny a modern education to generations of pupils. At the moment 40 per cent of our pupils achieve five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths, and this represents a significant achievement. But we would have anticipated a rise in standards if we had got the new facilities."

Spending review aims to cut delays

The Government has launched a review of capital spending which Education Secretary Michael Gove said will ensure taxpayers money is no longer wasted on "dysfunctional processes" on future building projects.

Mr Gove said the BSF programme had been beset by delays, botched buildings and too much red tape.

The Government review will be led by former Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University John Hood, former chief executive of BAA and Jaguar Sir John Egan, group operations director of Dixons Sebastian James, Tesco's director of property services Kevin Grace and chief executive of Lewisham Council Barry Quirk.

Ministers are also reviewing BSF funding for building projects at new academies. Ten schools are affected by this in Yorkshire.