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LGA stresses need for school rebuilding to start soon

15/03/2013 Joanna
Some primary and secondary teachers are educating their pupils in dilapidated premises while they wait for these schools to be rebuilt, a new study has shown.

When the government cancelled the previous administration's Building Schools for the Future programme, it instead launched the £2.4 billion Priority School Building scheme.

Of the 587 schools that bid for this funding, 261 were successful, with the schools that would receive this assistance being announced in May 2012.

Yet nine months on, research by the London Government Association (LGA) has found that many of these schools' head teachers still do not know when rebuilding work will start.

Others have learnt that contracts for building work at their schools will not be awarded until 2015, meaning the work itself is unlikely to be completed until 2016 at the earliest.

As a result, many councils told the LGA that they had had to themselves foot the bill so the most vital work required at these schools could be carried out, while tens of thousands of pupils are having to study in buildings badly in need for repair.

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, warned: "Heads and parents are telling us that the condition of some schools is so bad, it's getting in the way of providing a good education.

"Despite the hard work of teachers, the possibility that children could excel in such poor surroundings is a challenge too far."

Devon County Council, for example, has expended £2.5 million on urgent health and safety works at eight of its schools waiting central government funding.

Suffolk County Council has similarly spent £1.1 million on essential work on two of its schools, while Bury Council has set aside £2 million of contingency funding to cover the potential cost of key repairs at three schools.

Minister for schools David Laws told BBC News that the programme would be completed on time, adding that the government expected to finalise its plans for privately financed school work very soon, some of which he said would be completed by 2015 and hopefully all by 2017.

However, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg asserted that while the government had promised to refurbish hundreds of schools, it had delivered almost nothing in almost three years, claiming that its promises had resulted in little save for "chaos, incompetence and repeated delays".

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