Crumbling schools still wait for cash decision

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Tens of thousands of children are being taught in crumbling old schools in the face of delays to public funding for new buildings, it is suggested.

Hundreds of schools, many among the most dilapidated in the country, have applied to the Government for money earmarked to fix those in the worst conditions, according to research by the Local Government Association (LGA).

But so far, none of the £2bn Priority Schools Building Programme funding has been allocated, despite an announcement due at the end of last year, it said.

The LGA is calling on the Government to clarify which schools will receive funding, to allow plans to be made for the future.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it was assessing and reviewing every application, but did not give a figure for the number of schools that have applied for funding under the priority building programme, or say when decisions would be made.

The LGA said its research found at least 476 schools said they were in dire need of new buildings.

This figure covered two-thirds of councils eligible to enter bids, and excludes academies, so the true figure could be higher, said the LGA.

It said there were concerns that if the scheme was heavily oversubscribed, then many schools in poor condition could miss out on funding, leaving youngsters in sub-standard buildings with leaky roofs, poor toilet facilities and outdated security.

In Nottinghamshire alone, the county council has submitted an application covering 48 schools it believes are in an extremely poor condition, with a potential total rebuild cost of £176.6m.

Sandwell Council in the West Midlands has submitted an application for 17 schools, at a potential cost of £214m.

Councillor David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “It’s clear from these figures that Government funding is not going to be able to stretch to cover all the schools that need it.

“The situation is now unacceptable and threatens to severely impact on our children’s education.

“Schools can wait three months to repair a leaky roof if they know that at some point it will be fixed, but when that wait turns into six months, then 12 months or more, the delays become intolerable.”

Cllr Simmonds said schools were being left in limbo, and with councils suffering a 32 per cent cut to their education budget, there was little room for them to step in and help.

Schools needed to know if they would get funding so alternative plans could be made, if necessary, to bring classrooms up to scratch, he added.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “There has been huge interest in the programme.

“We are carefully assessing and reviewing each application.

“We make no apologies for having a fair, thorough and rigorous bidding process.”