School rebuilding record 'woeful', says Labour
The government is condemning children to learn in dilapidated buildings, claims Labour, with only a small number of schools due to be rebuilt this year.
The Education Minister Elizabeth Truss told MPs: "We plan to have approximately 20 to 25 projects on site by the end of this year."
Labour says this is fewer than 10% of the schools identified by ministers as being in need of repair in England.
"Their record is woeful," said shadow schools minister Stephen Twigg.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Ms Truss confirmed that 261 schools were due to be rebuilt under the government's Priority Schools Building Programme.
'Value for money'
She said that the programme would be delivered by grouping schools together into "batches".
"As far as possible the needs of the schools in the worst condition will be addressed first. This is a significant programme of rebuilding and it will be delivered over a number of years," said Ms Truss.
She said that planning applications would be submitted in the next few weeks and construction work will start in the summer "with a large number of procurements for other schools in progress".
She added that the process to group the schools had taken into account their condition, geography and commercial viability so that there was strong competition for the work to ensure value for public money.
Labour says that if it had been in power it had planned to rebuild 735 schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme, which was cancelled when the coalition came to power.
"We know that the quality of school building can make a real difference to the quality of learning. Parents will be angry that three years after scrapping Labour's school building programme, many children will be left in classrooms that are crumbling and leaking," said Mr Twigg.
Mr Twigg added that "with the economy flat-lining... a proper school building programme would be good for pupils and good for jobs".
Ms Truss said Labour's record on school buildings "spoke for itself".
"Their scheme was £10 billion over budget, eight years behind schedule and projects had to go through up to 30 months of bureaucracy before construction could even begin.
"Stephen Twigg has himself admitted that billions were wasted."