Education

23.02.17

Councils face ‘significant risk’ in fixing deteriorating school estate

Local councils face “significant challenges” in providing enough places in schools as they struggle to maintain the condition of school estates whilst funds are diverted to open free schools.

In a report drawn up by the National Audit Office (NAO), it was found that a further 231,000 primary places and 189,000 secondary places will be needed between 2016 and 2021 to meet demand, and that it will cost local authorities £6.7bn to improve all school buildings to being up to “satisfactory” or “better condition”.

The report, which outlined the NAO’s concerns surrounding schools, said: “Meeting this need will be difficult because primary schools have often already been expanded where this was straightforward, and because it is more complicated to increase capacity in secondary schools as they require specialised facilities, such as science laboratories.

“The forecast deterioration in the condition of the school estate is a significant risk to long-term value for money.”

The responsibility to maintain school buildings is a power devolved to multi-academy trusts and local authorities, but some councils expressed concern that the £850m being put into opening a projected 883 free schools by 2020 will lead to current schools falling into disrepair.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, has called on the government to alter funding plans to save areas where existing schools are struggling to maintain their buildings at a high enough level.

“The Department for Education needs to spend at least £6.7 billion just to bring all school buildings up to a satisfactory state,” she added.

“But the department is choosing to open new free schools in areas which do not need them and are failing to fill places. This is taxpayers’ money that could be used to fund much-needed improvements in thousands of existing school buildings.”

Commenting on the report, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People’s Board Cllr Richard Watts also voiced concern at councils being unable to create enough school spaces in certain areas.

“Councils have a statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place available to them but are under extreme pressure to accommodate rapidly rising numbers of pupils looking for a place,” he argued.

“If we're to meet the demand for school places then existing academy schools should expand where required, or councils should be given back the powers to open new maintained schools.”

Cllr Watts also said that councils had already diverted £1bn of their own budgets to create places, a measure that is set to increase in the future with new developments and government programmes.

“If the crisis is to be dealt with properly the government must commit to funding the creation of school places and hand powers back to councils so that they can open new schools, for both primary and secondary-age pupils,” he concluded.

A DfE spokesperson also commented on the findings, saying: "As the NAO acknowledges, we have made more school places available, and in the best schools.

"The free school programme is a vital part of this – more than three quarters of free schools have been approved in areas where there is already demand for new places and the vast majority are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

“The Government is making a huge investment in the school estate of £23 billion up to 2021, to create a further 600,000 new school places, deliver 500 new free schools, and rebuild and refurbish buildings at over 500 schools."

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here 

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Sales of social housing increase 10% on last year as Right to Buy takes hold

24/11/2017Sales of social housing increase 10% on last year as Right to Buy takes hold

The government has released figures showing that 13,400 social housing properties were sold last year under Right to Buy, an increase of 10% on 2... more >
Authorities given powers to recoup 80% of temporary accommodation spending in £70m UC reform

24/11/2017Authorities given powers to recoup 80% of temporary accommodation spending in £70m UC reform

Councils will be able to claim back over 80% of the money they spend on temporary accommodation after the government announced new reforms to the... more >
Living standards set to fall for longest period yet , think tank says

24/11/2017Living standards set to fall for longest period yet , think tank says

Britain is heading for the longest period of falling living standards since records began, the Resolution Foundation has warned this week. In it... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
View all News

the raven's daily blog

City-centric, deeply disappointing and a nightmare – criticisms pile against the Budget

22/11/2017City-centric, deeply disappointing and a nightmare – criticisms pile against the Budget

It’s been a busy day in the PSE office. Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget included a number of interesting announcements, ranging from new devolution deals and housing measures to changes to business rates. This year’s Statement was described well by Lord Bob Kerslake, who said it had been a “mixed bag” for hous... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Driving forward a healthier Scotland

10/11/2017Driving forward a healthier Scotland

Dundee City Council is leading the way in boosting electric vehicle (EV) uptake in Scotland, writes Rebecca Wallace from the local authority&rsqu... more >
A smarter approach to digital transformation

10/11/2017A smarter approach to digital transformation

Catherine Bright, Smarter Digital Services (SDS) manager, explains how a partnership of 12 councils across Kent and Surrey are jointly funding a ... more >
Delivering on estates

10/11/2017Delivering on estates

Sam Ulyatt, strategic category commercial director at the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), on how a new framework can help public sector organisat... more >
Open for business

10/11/2017Open for business

Clare Moore, senior specialist of valuation and disposals at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), explains how public sector bodies looking to... more >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Business, tells PSE’s Luana Salles that health and social care orga... more >
HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

26/06/2017HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what b... more >
Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >

public sector focus

View all News