The Government has announced the scrapping of England’s national school redevelopment scheme, which will affect some 715 school revamps, with more to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Shelving Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ (BSF) programme could save billions in harsh economic times – but do you think it’s the right thing to do?
Education Secretary Michael Gove cancelled the BSF scheme, which was designed to replace out-dated buildings with modern facilities, telling the BBC that “…throughout its life [BSF] has been characterised by massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy.”
He described the scheme as “dysfunctional” and “unnecessarily bureaucratic”, with nine “meta stages”.
The BBC reported that some 180 schools have been rebuilt or revamped since the programme was introduced by Labour in 2004, with building about to start in 231 schools: “But 1,100 schools have already signed up to the scheme, investing time, energy and money into drawing up plans for redevelopment, but have not reached financial close,” said the Beeb.
The Guardian reported a Whitehall source as saying that the whole process of deciding how much of BSF would be scrapped had been “bloody chaos”, and that weeks of uncertainty had cost schools, LAs and the construction industry dearly.
‘Tragedy for teachers and parents’
Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls was reported by the BBC as describing the decision as a “tragedy” for teachers and parents who would have benefited from new facilities.
Meanwhile Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers commented: “Michael Gove uses arguments against bureaucracy as a cover for massively reducing the BSF programme. Of course, there are always better ways of achieving major building projects but there is no excuse for leaving schools which were promised new buildings swinging in the wind.
‘Return to crumbling, inadequate schools’?
“Cutting the budget to rebuild schools, particularly primary schools, will be a huge blow to those that have been promised the sort of facilities you would expect in a modern school. We are in real danger of returning to the crumbling inadequate schools that were a signature of the last Tory Government,” said Ms Blower.
But The Guardian reported the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, as saying that he’d identified £1.54bn in spending commitments made in the dying days of the Labour Government that were not properly funded.
Cleaning up the mess?
“The reality is that these unfunded spending promises should never have been made, because the money was never there to pay for them. We did not make this mess, but we are cleaning it up,” Alexander told The Guardian.
What’s your view? Are we living in such harsh times that these measures are essential to balance the nation’s books? Will this signal a return to “crumbling, inadequate schools”? Is yours one of the hundreds of schools likely to be affected? What’s your story?