Schools repairs set to improve learning

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ONE of the largest ever school repair programmes in North Yorkshire has been completed to ensure teaching facilities have been brought into the 21st century for dozens of sites across England’s largest county.

There have been long-term concerns about the state of North Yorkshire’s schools dating back a number of years and education chiefs have overseen a drive to improve outdated facilities. The county has a large number of schools because many serve rural locations and it is hoped the work, which has included repairing roofs and replacing windows, will help inspire students and improve their grades.

Long-standing repairs and general improvements have been made to buildings as part of the programme to update the estates of more than 40 schools. Despite government cash being slashed for investment in school buildings, the authority says it has increased maintenance funding to repair roofs, replace windows and floors and upgrade school heating and electrical infrastructure. This year it has budgeted about £4m.

The council’s executive member for schools, Coun Arthur Barker, said: “At a time when the county council is facing significant reductions in the money that is available to invest in school buildings it is important that we focus our investment in the right areas.

“We believe that by improving the fabric of our schools we will ensure that pupils throughout North Yorkshire will be able to enjoy high quality learning environments.”

Scot McFarlane, the headteacher at Stokesley Community Primary School, which has benefited from the replacement of a large flat roof and of heating mains within the central school building, added: “In recent years we have suffered a large amount of disruption during periods of heavy rain when water has leaked through the roof into a number of classrooms. The pupils at the school are looking forward to a far drier winter within the school.”

Debra Vines, finance manager at Tadcaster Grammar School, revealed that works to repair windows and roofing at her school had also been well received. She said: “Students and staff are now able to study without the fear of the roof or windows leaking.”

Another site which has benefited is George Pindar School in Scarborough, which has had a large number of windows replaced. Linda Holden, the director of college operations, said: “All of the work has had a positive impact upon our school environment, helping to encourage students to achieve greater things within their learning.”

The programme has also involved emergency works including the replacement of ceilings to four classrooms at Water Street community primary school in Skipton, which meant they could not be used and as a result two classes were taught elsewhere within the school and about 60 children were transported daily to Ings Community Primary School in Skipton.

Water Street’s headteacher, Stuart Anslow, said: “Although there have been difficulties the children have enjoyed the experience of working with a different school and real positives have come from it.”

In 2008, the authority said almost £67m would be spent on long-term capital projects, topping up £41m in Government funding that had been made available. Some of the windfall was to be invested in new buildings and other projects but it said a large chunk would be spent on maintenance and building improvements.

The council is now working with its property consultants, Jacobs, to identify priorities for inclusion in a programme of works which are expected to be delivered during the next financial year. The scheme will be finalised once the council receives notification of its funding package from the Government later this year.