School buildings

Buildings: How schools are shut out from repairs cash

Revelation comes after spending watchdog warns 700,000 learn in buildings needing major repairs

Revelation comes after spending watchdog warns 700,000 learn in buildings needing major repairs

30 Jun 2023, 9:00

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Sixty per cent of urgent repair bids from small trusts that fear their school buildings could be dangerously run down have been snubbed, Schools Week can reveal.   

Meanwhile, our analysis shows that more than 70 per cent of academies that don’t stump up a large chunk of cash towards repair work are being shunned for government grants. 

It comes after a damning National Audit Office report found years of chronic underinvestment have meant 700,000 children are being educated in structures requiring major fixes. 

The watchdog revealed a £2 billion annual funding shortfall and that more than a third of school buildings are past their “use-by date”, as the government lacks “comprehensive information on the extent of potential safety issues”.

Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, said “worryingly, the government does not know how many schools may be unsafe”.

“After years of firefighting issues, parents need reassurance that the department knows where, when and how any risks to their children will be remedied.”

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show three-fifths of applications for urgent capital support have been rejected since 2018. 

Schools that put up own cash favoured

The DfE fund is only open to small trusts running academies with buildings that “put the safety of pupils or staff at risk” or “threaten the closure” of whole or significant parts of the site.

A separate FOI revealed how the condition improvement fund (CIF) heavily favours schools that stump up more of their own cash.

CIF funding is only available to standalone academies or trusts with fewer than five schools wanting to keep a building “safe and in good working order”. 

But schools that commit more of their own cash get higher marks. Our FOI found just 217 of the 759 bids (29 per cent) where schools contributed up to 5 per cent of their own cash got approved.

Meanwhile, 38 per cent of schools that stumped up 15 per cent or more of the costs got funding.

The chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, Leora Cruddas, said it was “simply not acceptable” that the state was “effectively putting children and staff at risk”. She called for an urgent review of capital funding.

But a DfE spokesperson said it had been “significantly investing” in transforming schools. It would always provide support on a case-by-case basis if it was alerted to a serious safety issue.

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