School leaders battle for funds to shore up England’s dilapidated classrooms | Education
When it rains, pupils at Wales High School in South Yorkshire know to be careful of the many obstacles as they move around the building – buckets, lots of buckets.
“On a rainy day, it’s common to see a dozen buckets around the school,” principal Pepe Di’Iasio said. “You can’t do anything long term. We’re just patching the roof and doing the different things we can. We have flat roofs, asbestos everywhere and an old energy system that consumes a lot. We have a building that we heat every day and the heating comes straight from the roof. »
Inspectors told him that his school, in Kiveton Park, near Rotherham, is in the bottom 200 in terms of condition. Yet with only 50 schools accepted for the government’s school reconstruction plan each year, most will have to wait.
“When you consider rising energy costs right now, that waits another year when energy costs are up over 100% and students are in inadequate buildings,” Di’Iasio said.
When York Central Labor MP Rachael Maskell visited an outstanding local school, she was amazed at what she was shown. Education at All Saints Roman Catholic School is highly valued, but Maskell had no doubt that it was not a conducive environment for teaching.
“The music is set in an old aircraft hangar, where it’s freezing cold or boiling hot in the summer,” she said. “You have the gym, where the feet cross the floors. There are water infiltration problems. It’s a place with a fantastic history, but for a modern school today, it doesn’t serve that purpose.
The school is also among those who made a funding offer. Yet even if a lucky few will make it, it is now clear that teachers across the country and VIPs in Whitehall believe a far greater sum of money is needed.
Education figures trace the problems back to major cuts to school building budgets in 2010.
“When I took over 13 years ago we had real problems,” said Paul Gosling, headmaster of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Exmouth, Devon. “We had a sloping roof and water ran down three walls in the classroom when it rained.
“It was a terrible state, there were pieces of asbestos in places which made it difficult to do any repair work. The whole roof needed replacing. We were given a quote of £700,000 for this We used to have funding of around £45,000 but in 2010 that was reduced Our £45,000 was down to £7,000 – I told my governors we need to save for 100 years, then we can do the roof.
When water started leaking over the electrical boxes and the school asked the local MP for help, they secured funding for the rebuilding work, which was completed last year. But as secretary of the regional branch of the National Association of Head Teachers, he knows many other schools that have not been so lucky.
“A school has three temporary classrooms that are rotting and collapsing, and not suitable for 21st century education. Devon has a stock of around 300 schools. In two years we were just one of the four schools to receive this kind of major investment. It’s impossible for this pooling system to meet the needs that we have. There are a lot of schools that are falling into real disrepair.
The school repair bill certainly seems to be getting heavier. Last year, an official audit revealed that schools in England face a repair bill of more than £11billion, almost double some previous estimates.
Several teachers also pointed out that the current repair funding system is inefficient. Schools have often spent money patching up their buildings, shortly before they finally get funding for reconstruction. They said schools should be notified more in advance of funding grants.
Maskell said she was aware of other schools in her constituency facing similar issues to All Saints. She, too, said soaring energy costs made the situation even more urgent.
“Many have old heating systems. With the rising cost of living, you’re going to end up heating up York – and you’re going to pay the price.
“All Saints is a fantastic school. He is remarkably successful and has a reputation for caring and supporting his students. You just think if there was also a decent school environment, what more could be done there,” Maskell said.