England’s £11bn school repair bill goes back to Michael Gove cuts

Analysis: bill is a result of austerity cuts and decisions made by the coalition education secretary

The £11bn worth of repairs for England’s schools, identified by the Department for Education’s own report, is the accumulated bill that goes back to the decision by Michael Gove to axe an ambitious programme of rebuilding.

The Blair government’s £55bn Building Schools for the Future plan – the biggest programme of its kind since the Victorian era – was a victim of the austerity budgets introduced by the coalition government after 2010, with Gove’s contribution being the abrupt cancellation of building works that were already approved and about to break ground. Some did eventually go ahead, mainly for Gove’s new academies.

While the programme had been expensive, many of the schools were desperately in need of replacement or repair. Visiting state secondary schools in the Midlands is to see portable cabins still standing in for classrooms 20 years later, and primary schools where the playground is so uneven that competitive netball games are banned.

While the average secondary school now faces a £1.6m bill for repairs, schools in the east and West Midlands have the highest bills of any part of the country, running close to £200 a square metre. One reason for the high cost is that many of the buildings are old: 31% of teaching blocks were built between 1900 and 1970, with those built in the 1960s requiring the most costly repairs.

An investigation by the Guardian in 2019 found that one in six of England’s schools needed urgent repairs, with 4,000 schools judged by surveyors to be in need of immediate restoration work, and many more were found not to have the paperwork required by law, including electrical test certificates, fire risk assessments or asbestos management plans.

Then, 1,313 schools had one issue defined as “life expired and/or serious risk of imminent failure”, while 705 schools had more than two and 69 had more than 10.

The latest DfE survey does find that most of the worst cases identified have been dealt with – but too many still remain.


Richard Adams

The GuardianTramp

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