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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 15:27 GMT
Union to probe PPP school backing
Construction Site
Private finance has been used to build and upgrade Scottish schools
Scotland's largest teaching union will carry out a survey of Scottish schools built using private finance to look at the pros and cons of using PPP schemes.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is opposed to using Public Private Partnerships to build schools and said many of its members are concerned about the quality of new facilities.

The survey will look at how PPP works for and against building schools.

The Scottish Executive defended its use of PPP and said it had made a huge contribution to the large-scale regeneration of schools in Scotland.

EIS will send surveys to teachers in the next week after anecdotal claims of delayed work and inadequate facilities disrupting pupils' learning.

The results are expected to be published in the spring.

Concerns Raised

EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith said: "A number of concerns have been raised and the survey will consider the extent to which school staff have been involved in the specification process.

"There are concerns about the size of teaching areas and in some schools there is little or no staff room provision.

"Teachers have also raised concerns about physical and recreational facilities and about parts of the school being open to the public at the same time as youngsters are being educated.

"We are also interested in some of the practicalities of the projects, where you have refurbishment going on when the school is trying to function."

Under PPP, members of the private sector win contracts to provide or refurbish school buildings, assuming responsibility for the capital cost.

Hefty Bills

The local authority in return commits to regular payments, reflecting both the cost and maintenance, over a period of up to 30 years.

But opponents argue PPP is often the only funding available to councils for big projects and future generations will face hefty repayment bills.

The first phase of PPP projects in 2002 built new schools or refurbished existing ones in 15 local authority areas.

The executive has already invested 530m in PPP schemes with ministers set to spend a further 2bn upgrading school facilities.

But while most of the projects have been delivered on time some recent deals have run into problems.

Teething Problems

An executive spokesman defended PPP and explained how "teething problems" could occur in any newly-built school, pointing out the investment it has made in schools.

He said: "PPP is contributing significantly to the regeneration of the school estate.

"It will also ensure long-term maintenance is carried out so the condition of schools does not deteriorate as has happened in the past.

"Teething problems are not uncommon in new school buildings, whether or not they are built under PPP.

"We are sure teachers will reflect carefully on the improvements made in the school estate in recent years and the alternative scenario - if the executive had not made all the additional resources available, both for PPP and other procurement routes."

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