The government will publish long overdue school building condition data before the summer Parliamentary recess, ministers have pledged.
The school condition data collection (CDC), the first survey of every state school in the country, was completed in 2019, yet only summary data has been published so far.
The document released in May 2021 revised up the cost of repairing or replacing all defects in England’s schools to £11.4 billion.
Ministers had pledged to release more detailed data from the survey by the end of last year, but failed to do so.
This prompted an “opposition day debate” in the House of Commons yesterday, in which Labour tried to force the publication of the data. The motion did not pass because Conservative MPs voted against it.
Responding to the debate last night, schools minister Nick Gibb said the government was “committed to publishing more detailed data as soon as possible”.
“It is an extremely large dataset, with 1.2 billion data points, and it is taking some time to prepare it for publication in a useful format.
“But we are none the less preparing it, and I can give a commitment that we will publish as soon as possible, and certainly before the summer recess.”
DfE drags feet on transparency
The government has been repeatedly criticised for its secrecy over the results of the survey.
In 2021, the Department for Education was ordered to release CDC reports for the first 50 schools in its rebuilding programme, following a lengthy freedom of information battle with Schools Week.
Officials claimed that releasing the reports, which are released to schools themselves but not the public, would breach “confidentiality of commercial or industrial information”.
The DfE also claimed that publishing the reports would let construction companies “develop pricing models” before bidding for work. It would also “compromise the department’s ability to secure good value in their future discussions with contractors and other third parties”.
However, the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that the DfE had failed to demonstrate that releasing the reports would have an adverse effect on schools, and that the reports were “not commercial in nature”.
Ministers came under fresh pressure to release more details from the survey last year, after Schools Week revealed almost a third of buildings include materials either at the end of their shelf life or that pose a “serious risk of imminent failure”.
Data obtained by Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson showed more than 7,100 schools were given the worst possible rating for at least one aspect of their buildings.
Ministers need ‘ambitious plan’
In December, government officials escalated the risk level of school buildings collapsing to “very likely”.
Speaking yesterday, Gibb said it was “true that we have raised our assessment of the level of risk in the estate and the department is helping the sector to manage that risk”.
“The risk rating…reflects the overall age of buildings in the estate and that we have worked with schools to resolve more issues with their buildings.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said publishing the data would be “only the first step and, by itself, does not solve the problem”.
“This data needs to be followed by an ambitious plan and major new government investment in school repairs and rebuilding.
“Continued failure to act with the necessary urgency risks putting the lives of children and school staff at risk.”