UK school building programme welcomed – but more is needed

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More than 1,000 school building improvement projects in England have been given the go-ahead by the UK government.

A total of 859 academies, sixth-form colleges and voluntary-aided schools in every region of the country will receive a share of a dedicated £456 million fund created to help refurbish and repair school buildings.

The Government says this latest condition improvement funding will ensure that pupils can learn in safe, warm and energy efficient classrooms. But while it is has been generally welcomed, there is a warning from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) that it only represents a small portion of what is actually needed.

Around £1.8 billion of capital funding has been allocated for the financial year 2023 to 2024 to improve the condition of school buildings, including £1.1 billion for local authorities, large multi-academy trusts and voluntary aided bodies which was announced in March.

Baroness Diana Barran, Minister for the School System, said: “Our Condition Improvement Fund has already completed over 11,000 projects, making a difference to pupils and teachers across the country. These projects help to create safer learning environments that make a difference to the quality of education for pupils.

It’s hugely important that every school has access to high-quality learning facilities and these funding allocations will make sure that responsible bodies can start to plan ahead and get projects started to replace roofs, boilers and windows – so pupils and teachers can learn and work in a comfortable space

Responding to the announcement, Simon Alford, President of RIBA, said: “England’s school estate remains in serious disrepair, so I am pleased to see this funding to make much-needed upgrades. However, after many years of funding falling in real terms, this only represents a small proportion of the amount needed.

“Safety must be at the top of the agenda, but it is vital that investment also ensures that school buildings foster positive student engagement and support their communities. Whether retrofit or new build, we must deliver well-designed, energy efficient schools – architecture that guarantees that our schools are fit for future generations.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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