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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 18:53 GMT
School rebuilding pledge queried
The government is being accused of reneging on a promise to upgrade England's secondary school buildings.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, had said every school in the country would be refurbished or rebuilt by 2015.

But the Department for Education and Skills says major remodelling of "at least three" schools will have started in every local authority by 2016.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Phil Willis said this was "a shameful deceit of students, teachers and parents".

'Shameful'

"Every day pupils and teachers spend many hours in their school buildings," he said.

"It should be the government's priority to ensure that these premises are modern, clean and fit for a 21st century education."

For years the government had promised pupils that every single one of their schools would be rebuilt or refurbished by 2015, he said.

"Now they learn that only three schools per LEA will be modernised."

'Over 10 to 15 years'

The main rebuilding programme goes under the banner of "Building Schools for the Future".

In announcements about the scheme sent out in the past week to local and regional news organisations, the department has been saying: "By 2016, major remodelling (at least 3 schools) will have started in every single authority."

The education department said its policy was clear and it had never promised the work would be completed by 2015.

The Building Schools for the Future website says it is "intended to provide all secondary schools with 21st century facilities over 10-15 years from 2005".

In its five-year plan this summer the department said it would "refurbish or rebuild every secondary school to 21st century standards in the next 10 to 15 years".

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, had said in his Budget speech in March: "Our capital investment allocations will ensure for every constituency in the country that by 2015 every secondary school can be refurbished or rebuilt with world class technology in every school and the best state of the art learning support in every classroom."

This was understood to mean the work would have been finished by 2015.

The NASUWT teachers' union, for example, said in its response: "... warmly welcome the provision of capital investment to refurbish and rebuild every secondary school by 2015 ...".

Mr Brown confirmed it in evidence shortly afterwards to the Commons Treasury select committee.

"We have now announced a 'Schools for the Future' programme which is by 2015 every secondary school in England will be modernised or in some cases rebuilt with all the new technology both in the classrooms and in the schools themselves put into place," he said.

An article in April about public finance, written by a former senior adviser at the Department for Education and Skills, Conor Ryan, noted the "existing commitment to refurbish or rebuild each of England's 3,500 secondary schools by 2015".

More money

Earlier on Thursday, England's schools were promised more money for next year than the increase they had been expecting.

The provisional local government settlement has been set at 60bn for 2005-06.

The government said this would deliver a national average rise of 6.9% in the "per pupil" funding schools get.

The Department for Education and Skills said the rise in the current year was 6% on average.

Passing it on

Head teachers had been guaranteed minimum increases of 4% in secondary and special schools for 2005-06 and 5% in primary and nursery schools, assuming their pupil numbers remained the same.

The money will go as usual via local education authorities.

The government has written to them saying it expects them all to pass on the increase in full.




SEE ALSO:
City schools to get 200m boost
30 Nov 04 |  Humber
Heads want full control of budgets
21 Jul 04 |  Education
School spending remains a mystery
20 Jul 04 |  Education
Schools cash crisis claim rejected
02 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
'Schools of the future' unveiled
12 Feb 04 |  Education


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