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The BBC's James Westhead
"650 schools will get a complete overhaul"
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David Blunkett
"Making a sustained investment"
 real 28k

banner Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
More school repairs and nursery places
Nursery school class
The government will increase the number of free nursery school places
The government is promising a big increase in the school repair programme in England and, eventually, free part-time nursery places for all three year olds in England and Wales.

Key points
7.8bn for repairs over next three years
Free nursery places for three year olds from late 2004
New drive on adult basic skills
The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, told the Labour conference in Brighton that some 600 schools would be transformed or replaced, with 7.8bn being spent over the next three years.

He said he was "modernising for a purpose" - so that every pupil should believe they could achieve whatever they wanted to.

Already, 11,000 schools have had work done under the modernisation programme and several thousand more are currently being repaired. Now another 7,000 will benefit.

school demolition
Head teachers are to get more money to modernise
The intention is that this year's 2bn budget will rise to 2.1bn next year, 2.5bn the year after and 3.2bn in 2003/4.

Some of the money will be local authority borrowing and some will be used to guarantee projects under the Private Finance Initiative.

But much of it will go straight to schools.

Secondary schools will see their annual repairs budget rise from about 16,000 this year on average to 50,000 in 2003-4. Primaries will get 16,000, up from 6,500 now.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett: "Making lifelong learning a reality"
"Our job is to ensure that every school is a good school - that the roof doesn't leak, that the heating works, that the children are warm, that temporary classrooms are replaced, that schools are refurbished," Mr Blunkett said.

He referred to the extra 710m for new technology in schools announced on Tuesday by the prime minister.

He said he wanted "a flourishing of children who believe ... that the world of tomorrow is their oyster, that they can reach out and do anything they like if only they believe it is possible."

Nursery places pledge

The investment in nursery education will increase to 2bn by 2003-4 from current levels of around 1.6bn.

All three-year-old children in England and Wales will be guaranteed a free part-time nursery place from September 2004, amounting to five two-and-a-half hour sessions a week.

The government's commitment had been to offer a free place for two thirds of three year olds by 2002.

It has struggled to create extra nursery places, as increases in nursery schools were offset by the closure of voluntary and private playgroups.

But emergency funding following an independent inquiry into playgroup closures appears to have stemmed the loss of places.

Mr Blunkett told delegates he wanted nursery education to become universal and as natural as primary and secondary education.

Another announcement concerned adult literacy and numeracy education.

Details will be given later in the year but he said there would be an increase in spending from a planned level of 253m in 2001-2 to 403m in 2003-4.

"This will be a critical second term priority for us - lifelong learning is more than a slogan, we are making it a reality," he said.

Heads pleased

His speech was given a standing ovation by Labour delegates, and generally went down well with head teachers' representatives at the conference in Brighton.

theresa may
Theresa May: "Parents know his broken promises"
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said they would be particularly pleased that much of the money for repairs was going straight to schools.

"It will enable them to move quickly on urgently needed repairs and put right 20 years of neglect of school buildings," he said.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said the money would do much to stop a drain on school budgets that had diverted money from staffing and pupils' needs.

Opposition unimpressed

But Phil Willis, for the Liberal Democrats, said giving repair money direct to schools meant those in desperate need would get the same as those that had just been built.

And Mr Blunkett's Conservative shadow, Theresa May, said teachers would take no comfort from the speech because their cries to reduce bureaucracy and improve discipline had been ignored.

"Yet again we hear promise after promise from David Blunkett but teachers and parents know he has failed to deliver on his promises over the past three years," she said.

It was worrying that childcare places for under-eights had fallen by 45,800 over the last year, she said.

'Nothing for teachers'

The Professional Association of Teachers, which has a section for nursery nurses, said the government must ensure in its expansion of the sector that staff were properly trained to look after young children.

But the PAT's general secretary, Kay Driver, said she was disappointed there was nothing in the speech that addressed the shortage of teachers.

And the leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Peter Smith, said that while the government was "in listening mode" it should listen to the concerns of the classroom teachers and stop taking them for granted.

"Education, education, education may be the mantra, but without the support of classroom teachers up and down the country, this government will not be able to deliver - it has yet to fully earn the teaching profession's support and trust," he said.

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See also:

11 Apr 00 | Education
Cash to bulldoze old classrooms
15 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Grants for childminders
06 Jun 00 | Education
Free places for all three year olds
01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
Pre-school education
18 May 00 | Education
Chasing pre-school targets
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