Cuts to School Building Programme will impact children

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A survey commissioned by the Building Schools Exhibition and Conference (BSEC) completed by 87 headteachers of secondary schools found that 78% agreed strongly that attainment was linked to the school estate, and 93% felt improving school buildings in poor condition had a positive effect on pupil’s learning opportunities.

According to BSEC, the survey provides a stark warning to government officials who may be considering reviewing the school building programme following a new government taking control after May’s general election, and shows how any cuts to funding would seriously impact on the country’s stated educational objectives.

Fifty-six per cent of the heads said they believed a political party’s support for school building would be a vote winner in a general election, compared with 25% who did not, and 82% stated that they were worried about cuts to the £55bn Building Schools for Future programmes.

Speaking to Building magazine Chief Executive of the British Council for School Environments, Ty Goddard, said: “These findings reflect the reality – that buildings can and do affect how our children learn and our teachers teach. Investment in the school estate is not a luxury, but a key tool in preparing our children for adult life.”

One headteacher said: “We’re currently judged to be next in line for improvements, but I fear priorities will change and the process will grind to a halt – great for those who have benefited, but for the rest of us it will be business and poor accommodation as usual.”

Another commented: “Our school is no longer fit for purpose. It needs to be rebuilt if we are to deliver the curriculum and offer decent facilities.”

Despite the strong support for continued investment, however, the survey underlined that there was still room for improvement in the current schools spending schemes, the biggest of which is the Building Schools for the Future programme. The headteachers of five schools said they expected their project to be delivered more than a year late, out of 37 who responded to the question. Thirteen (35%) said their schemes would be on time.

Just under half of respondents (47%) said they were very pleased or quite pleased with the design of their new school, while 15% said they were not pleased.

A spokesperson for the Partnerships For Schools said: ‘These findings about the positive impact of new or refurbished schools is what we hear from parents, teachers and pupils. But our own data clearly illustrates that well over 90% of our schools have been delivered within agreed dates.”

BSEC 2010 takes places on 24 and 25 February. To book a place at the BSEC 2010 conference on 24-25 February, go to www .buildingschools.co.uk

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