Page last updated at 05:47 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 06:47 UK

Schools upkeep 'disparity' claim

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Denbighshire chief executive Dr Mohammed Mehmet says Welsh schools are 40 or 50 years behind those in England in terms of upkeep and maintenance

Schools in Wales are lagging 40 to 50 years behind those in England in terms of physical upkeep, a council chief executive has claimed.

Dr Mohammed Mehmet, who moved to Denbighshire Council from England 18 months ago, told BBC Wales there was "obvious disparity" in money available.

His view was echoed by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

The Welsh Local Government Association said it was "working to put necessary investment into school buildings".

Dr Mohammed Mehmet
There is obvious disparity between the capital that is available in England and what appears to be available in Wales
Dr Mohammed Mehmet, Denbighshire chief executive

Talking about school maintenance, Dr Mehmet said: "There is obvious disparity between the capital that is available in England and what appears to be available in Wales."

Asked whether this amounted to a ratio between the countries of 2:1 or 3:1 per student, he replied: "I would have said more based on just what I've seen.

"I came to Wales a year and a half ago and when I visited schools I was struck by that difference. I would say 40, 50 years in terms of what is visible - the quality, the fabric of the buildings. It's almost beyond doubt.

"There is a certain disparity between what is happening in England, even now under these economic circumstances, and what we are able to do in Wales. And I think that's a big issue for us."

Dr Mehmet's views were echoed by Brian Lightman, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

"England is most definitely out-spending us," said Mr Lightman, also head teacher of St Cyres School, Penarth.

"I went to quite a number of schools around England, and indeed Scotland as well, and I didn't go near any schools that had the sort of funding issues that we have here in this school and in other schools in Wales."

Brian Lightman
I meet a lot of other head teachers from schools all round the UK...and they don't actually understand how we can run a school with the budget we receive
Brian Lightman, head teacher St Cyres School, Penarth

Mr Lightman described claims that English schools are receiving £500 per pupil per year more than Welsh schools as "an absolute minimum".

He said: "I meet a lot of other head teachers from schools all round the UK and I have yet to meet anybody who has anything remotely approaching our levels of funding, and they don't actually understand how we can run a school with the budget we receive."

The funding issue was raised in BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme with academic Prof David Reynolds.

He has long argued that pupils in England continue to have more money spent on their education than those in Wales.

Prof Reynolds said spending on each child in Wales is around £500 a year less than across the border.

He also maintains standards are being affected.

The programme also says many schools are struggling to maintain crumbling buildings.

Both Wales and England have been spending more on education over the last decade, but Professor Reynolds says Wales is currently spending 10% less than the government in England.

At the same time, he warns, standards are dropping from being on par with England to some seven per cent behind in key areas such as GCSE passes.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association said the school maintenance backlog across Wales was estimated at £1.6bn in a 2006 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and acknowledged: "I would imagine that this would be more now."

The spokesperson added: "We are working closely with the local authorities and the Welsh assembly government to ensure that all schools in Wales are fit for the 21st Century.

"We know that there is a significant amount of investment that will be needed from local authorities and the assembly government for this to happen.

Week In Week Out, BBC One Wales, 22:45 BST, Tuesday 2 June



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