Education & Family

School building cuts: Hard-hit areas

As teachers, parents and pupils protest over the scrapping of England's school rebuilding programme, we look at five regions where the cuts are hitting hard or the decision is causing a political stir. The government says the scheme was bureaucratic and wasteful.

Sandwell

The Black Country council was thrust into the spotlight as one of the authorities wrongly told by Mr Gove that repair work would go ahead.

Nine schools on the government's approved list were informed just days later that it was a mistake and building projects were in fact cancelled.

It meant the area's schools lost funds of £190m.

Plus millions of pounds had already been invested by the council's partners, according to Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper.

Pupils and teachers from Sandwell joined a meeting in Westminster, held by the Save Our Schools lobby, which is calling on ministers to reverse their decision.

Council leader Darren Cooper said people in Sandwell had been treated in a "disgraceful way".

"Everyone has seen how desperate these schools are in terms of their refurbishment or rebuild and it's absolutely imperative that money comes to Sandwell," he said.

He described events as a "fiasco" and said he was "extremely disappointed" Mr Gove had not yet visited Sandwell, despite assurances he would.

Kent

As one of the UK's largest education authorities, in charge of almost 600 schools, Conservative-run Kent County Council was one of the biggest casualties of the cull.

A total of 40 school building projects will no longer see the light of day, and a further eight academies may also be affected.

The total investment earmarked for the area's schools was £1.8bn.

Council Leader Paul Carter (Con) said he would push the government to compensate both the authority and contractors, who faced major losses from the scrapping of the BSF scheme.

He said the cost of forming and developing the scheme ran into millions of pounds and he was "surprised and disappointed" by the government's decision to ditch it.

Liverpool

With 24 secondary school projects shelved and two more hanging in the balance, the axing of the city's £350m rebuild and revamp scheme has caused shockwaves.

Council opposition leader, Lib Dem councillor Warren Bradley, said he felt "physically sick" when he heard the news, claiming people may no longer see any point in voting for his party.

And in a heated Commons exchange, West Derby MP and former schools minister Stephen Twigg urged Education Secretary Michael Gove to visit and see for himself the effects.

Mr Gove promised to send a minister from the Department for Education, but that has not yet happened - and the protests go on.

On 19 July, key church, business and political figures delivered a letter to the prime minister, asking him to accept an outline investment plan to replace the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

They want a priority list drawn up to identify which schools are most in need of a revamp - hoping to use a combination of business funding and government money.

Labour Riverside MP Louise Ellman said: "This is the city coming together with one voice".

Liverpool City Council said it had been due to sign contracts for the BSF work in November and had already short listed two construction firms.

It said the equivalent of 1,500 full-time jobs had been lost by the axed budget totalling £410m over 30 years - £350m in construction costs, £50m in IT equipment, and a £10m cleaning contract.

Portsmouth

Image caption Priory School in Portsmouth is one of a dozen to miss out on work

The rebuilding or refurbishment of a dozen secondary schools worth £200m, £25m in local funds, has been halted.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, Mike Hancock, said the government had "ripped us off" and should refund the costs of cancelled projects to local authorities.

The outspoken MP joined parents and pupils on a protest march through the city on 19 July.

He also said he would take schoolchildren from Priory School in Portsmouth to Downing Street on Friday to hand in a petition and letter they had written.

"I don't see any other remedy other than building the schools as planned to give good facilities for kids to be educated in," he said.

The newly-formed Portsmouth Save our Schools group hopes to pressure the government into reversing its decision to cancel the BSF programme.

Portsmouth City Council was less than three months away from selecting its preferred building contractor when the plug was pulled.

It said it had spent three years preparing the ground, and work was due to begin next year.

Councillor John Ireland, cabinet member for children's services, said the council was seeking "urgent dialogue" with Mr Gove to reinstate work on two schools as a "minimum commitment".

It was also "making contingency arrangements" in case this did not happen, he said.

The government has said it will review funding for just one school in the area - the city's Charter Academy.

Bridgwater

The six BSF projects in the Somerset town of Bridgwater hit the news when the local Conservative MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, threatened to march on Westminster in protest over the abrupt stop to rebuilding plans.

He says local officials were days off signing the contract to revamp six of the area's schools, when Mr Gove's list was published, showing three of them as "stopped", and another three as "under discussion".

At one of them, East Bridgwater community school, two rusting shipping containers have been used to expand school facilities, with reports that 14 toilets just serve 600 female pupils at another school, Haygrove.

On 13 July, Education Secretary Michael Gove held a meeting with Mr Liddell-Grainger, who later called off his protest, saying Mr Gove had agreed to review the situation in Bridgwater.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he had explained to Mr Gove that the project had come in well under budget, had been planned in just three years, and that, as there was one deal for all six schools, stopping just half of them was not plausible.

"Quite rightly the whole thing [BSF in general] has been a mess," he said, "but we've actually been highly efficient. I think he wasn't aware of just how far ahead we were."

But the Department for Education stressed that no decisions had been made further to those detailed on its list. The schools would be reviewed, it said, but only as part of a wider review of capital spending across the whole department.

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