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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 17:24 GMT
Cash 'not just to renew schools'
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website

school building work
Planning and implementing refurbishment will take many years
Government money to renew primary school buildings in England is also for other initiatives such as raising standards and extending services.

Refurbishment of about 8,900 schools, promised by the chancellor in the Budget, will take 15 years.

Local authorities are to be consulted before the programme is launched later this year.

A teachers' leader has said he fears there might be "jam spread too thinly".


Chancellor Gordon Brown said in his Budget speech last week: "we will now establish a building programme for primary schools".

He spoke of "a total investment over the next five years in primary schools alone of 9.4bn".

"And as we move this new programme forward, over 8,900 primary schools will be rebuilt or refurbished - an average of 15 per constituency," he said.

Officials at the Department for Education and Skills said most of this had been announced already. In terms of new money, there was 650m extra - coming in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Local planning

They have now said this will cover "building condition, standards, curriculum enrichment, extended services, and the Every Child Matters agenda" - implementing the Children Act.

A spokeswoman said the new funding programme was expected to continue "with the aim of renewing up to 50% of all primary schools in 15 years".

It would be launched later this year, following consultation - giving local authorities time to plan the improvement of their primary schools, "drawing on all the funding sources available to them, including in time this new one".

"Our aim will be that every authority will from the outset receive sufficient funding to make a real impact in at least one primary school, and will continue to get funding to support its transformational primary priorities," she said.

Extended services include childcare from 8am to 6pm and facilities such as parenting support and adult education.

"This is definitely the Gordon Brown baby - excuse the pun," said the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart.

"To deliver his 10-year childcare strategy he has to put capital spending into primary schools."

Secondary schools

Mr Hart said "a big issue" would be how schools would be chosen to receive this funding.

The leader of the National Union of Teachers, Steve Sinnott, said: "I do hope it's not going to be jam spread too thinly."

There was a lack of clartiy about the timescale and how much extra money the government would be committing, as against what was expected to come from education authorities and the Private Finance Initiative, he said.

The separate secondary school renewal programme, Building Schools for the Future, was said by the government last year to involve rebuilding or refurbishing every school by 2015.

Completion is now put at "10 to 15 years" away.

In Northumberland, for example, the government's aim - "subject to future public spending decisions" - is for one secondary school to benefit by 2011.

Northern and central areas of the county would join the programme between 2014 and 2017. Work on the rest would begin even later.

School kitchens

The Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Phil Willis, has welcomed the extra capital for primary schools but has raised questions about how it will work.

One of his concerns is whether state-funded Church of England schools will get the same support as local education authority schools.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said on Monday, talking about school meals: "We will ensure extra resources are available to build the new kitchens and renew existing ones."

A spokeswoman said there was no new money for this - it would come from "the existing record levels of capital spending", including the extra announced by the chancellor.

"There will not be a separate funding stream," she said.

"Where new school kitchens are required these will be provided as part of the programme to refurbish and rebuild primary and secondary schools.

"The recent Budget announced significant increases in direct grants to schools and capital funding which will help schools deliver new school kitchens where fresh produce can be prepared and served."

Direct payments

In his Budget speech Mr Brown talked about grants "direct to the school and the head teacher to spend on the school's priorities".

There would be separate announcements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, he said, but for England head teachers of a typical primary school had "a guarantee over the next three years of a total of over 100,000".

And secondary schools had "a guarantee over the next three years of a total of almost one third of a million pounds".

This includes extra money which the government says is "to help schools to meet the challenges that provision of extended services involves in the shorter term" - though they were still free to spend it on their own priorities.

These are estimates however because the basis on which the figures are calculated is changing.

"We propose to move from the current scale related to pupil numbers to a fairer 'lump sum plus per pupil' allocation from April 2006," a spokeswoman said.

This would then be combined with other grants into a single one from April 2008.

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