Government scraps longer school day pledge

The government has scrapped a £285 million pledge to fund longer days at secondary school for pupils to access more sports and art activities.

The cash will instead be diverted to help fund a £415 million pot to build new sports facilities, announced by education secretary Justine Greening yesterday.

The Healthy Pupils Capital Programme will be paid for by the government’s “sugar tax” and will be available from 2018.

But Schools Week has been told that more than two-thirds of the funding will be transferred from the ‘Longer Working Day Scheme’ – first announced by George Osborne (pictured below right) in his budget last year.

The then chancellor said at least a quarter of secondary schools would be handed a share of £285 million to open for an extra hour each day. The cash would have been provided as part of schools’ revenue streams to help them offer more extra-curricular arts and sports sessions.

George Osborne

But the scheme has now been dropped in favour of funding Greening’s capital scheme in which the cash will be spent on buildings, as well as after-school activities and healthy eating initiatives.

Rachel Gooch, a governor in Suffolk, has criticised the move. She told Schools Week: “The main issue is the switch to capital from revenue funding. Largely we already have space and equipment, but we can’t afford the extra hours to provide additional sports clubs and breakfast clubs on an ongoing basis.

“Extended schools was a significant initiative announced in the last budget and has now been dropped without a whisper.”

The move to divert the cash comes a week after the National Audit Office warned the government would have to spend £6.7 billion to bring every school to a “satisfactory” condition.

A total of £5.5 billion is needed for major repair works on the schools estate, with another £1.2 billion needed to replace parts of buildings at “serious risk of imminent failure”.

Alongside the longer working day cash, Osborne also announced £10 million to fund breakfast clubs, and another £160 million to double the sports premium.

We have space and equipment, but we can’t afford to provide additional sports clubs

The government has confirmed these pledges will remain in place. They will form part of a £1.3 billion investment in 2018-19 in helping pupils lead healthier lifestyles.

Greening said the cash will help “secure the future health of our young people”.

The new £415 million capital funding will be dished out through a central formula to local authorities or multi-academy trusts, which can make spending decisions based on “local context”.

Schools in smaller trusts, standalone trusts and sixth form centres will have to bid for cash from a central fund.

The government said facilities will support children with physical conditions or mental health issues.

The government has also pledged the funding will not fall below £415 million regardless of the cash generated by the levy.

The Department for Education will confirm the allocation formula, spending guidance and bidding criteria in the summer.

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