Greening heralds £2.4bn school capital funding, but money isn’t new

The Department for Education has outlined how it will spend £2.4 billion in school capital funding in the coming years, but has confirmed that none of the investment is new money.

Justine Greening, the education secretary, says councils will get almost £1 billion in 2020-21 to create 60,000 of the 600,000 school places needed by 2021, while £1.4 billion will be used to improve the condition of existing institutions.

Both pots of money are part of the £23.2 billion which was allocated for school capital funding by then chancellor George Osborne in the 2015 spending review.

Our Plan for Britain is to build a fairer society, with a good school place available for every child

According to the government, £466 million of the £1.4 billion allocated today for school condition improvement will be used to fund 1,435 projects across 1,184 academies and sixth form colleges through the existing Condition Improvement Fund.

The remaining cash will be allocated directly to schools, councils and academy trusts.

The £980 million for councils to create additional places in 2019-20 is part of £7 billion allocated over the course of this parliament and is supposed to help the government reach its target of creating 600,000 additional school places 2021.

In November 2015, Osborne allocated £23.2 billion in capital funding for schools. At the time, the government said this was to be spent on reaching its target for new places and “refurbishing and rebuilding more than 500 schools”.

The government now says it will end up spending more than £24 billion over the course of the parliament on school capital funding.

On top of the original £23.2 billion, there is the £200 million pot for the expansion of grammar schools allocated in last year’s autumn statement. Plus the £415 million healthy schools capital programme unveiled in February and £530 million for new free schools and existing school refurbishment handed out in last month’s budget. This brings the total to more than £24.3 billion.

Although today’s announcement does not include additional funding, it is understood officials hope clarity on spending – particularly the allocation of local authority funding for 2019-20, several years ahead of time – will help schools and councils plan ahead.

It comes after the National Audit Office warned that deterioration in the condition of the school estate is a “significant risk to long-term value for money”, and questioned the government’s approach to school places planning.

The NAO estimates it will cost £6.7 billion to bring all existing school sites up to “satisfactory” condition.

Greening claims the investment announced today will “help ensure every young person has the opportunity to fulfil their potential”.

The government also confirmed it is still considering responses to its consultation on lifting the ban on new grammar schools among other reforms.

Schools have been expecting an announcement on the outcome of the consultation – which will take the form of a government “white paper” – for several weeks now, but DfE officials say they will respond “shortly”.

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