HC Deb 10 May 2004 vol 421 cc42-4W
Mr. Caton

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will set a target date for the completion of outstanding repairs to school buildings; [171237]

(2) if he will make a statement on the Government's progress towards achieving its target of rebuilding or remodelling 650 schools by 2004; [171239]

(3) if he will make a statement on the Government's progress towards its target for substantial repairs to be made to 7,000 schools by this year. [171240]

Mr. Miliband

Central government capital support for investment in school buildings in England has increased from under £700 million in 1996–97 to £4.5 billion this year and will rise further to over £5 billion in 2005–06. Most of this funding is allocated by formula to schools and local education authorities so that they can address their investment needs, which are prioritised locally in asset management plans. My department does not collect detailed information on local investment decisions, in view of the unacceptable bureaucratic burden this would impose. The targets mentioned by the hon. Member were realistic estimates based on the increased levels of capital funding available to schools and to authorities. However, we are confident that local education authorities and schools have the investment available for their schools to reach these targets.

For instance, funding includes direct capital funding for every school. From 2002–03 to 2004–05, a typical secondary school has received over £200,000 of its own capital, and a typical primary school over £60,000, enabling them to improve their buildings in line with their priorities. Therefore, we believe that virtually every school in the country has now benefited from substantial repairs or improvements to its buildings, far in excess of the target of £7,000.

Further, funding also includes support for PFI projects. By September 2004, from signed PFI contracts, about 130 newly built or rebuilt schools are scheduled to be operating, plus a similar number of refurbished schools. There are a further 220 schools, new built and refurbished, which are also scheduled to benefit from these PFI contracts. Over 80 schools benefited from substantial investment from New Deal for Schools funding. In the voluntary aided sector, where we allocate funding directly to schools, there have been 90 new or rebuilt school projects in the last five to six years. In addition, authorities are investing in new and rebuilt schools to meet local population growth and the needs of 21stcentury teaching and learning.

By 2004–05, this government will have provided a total of £24 billion for investment in school buildings in England, enabling schools and authorities to address the backlog of repairs that had built up as a result of years of under-funding and to begin to make schools suitable for the teaching and learning needs of the 21stcentury.

Earlier this year, I announced the first wave of authorities to benefit from the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which aims to renew all secondary schools in England in 10–15 years from 2005–06, subject to future spending decisions. In addition to the BSF programme, we will continue to make substantial funding available for schools in the primary sector and those in the secondary sector not prioritised in BSF. School buildings will continue to be improved in line with local priorities, and support provided for the continuing cyclical, predictive and reactive maintenance needs which are a necessary part of the upkeep of all school buildings so that they do not again decay. In value for money terms, there may be occasions when it is preferable to wait for strategic renewal of a school rather than continue to patch and mend. This will be a local decision. Given this, I do not intend to set a target date for completion of outstanding repairs.