William Eichler 26 September 2023

Unions call for £4bn investment in school estate

Unions call for £4bn investment in school estate image
Image: Roger Utting / Shutterstock.com.

In response to the RAAC crisis, trade unions have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to invest £4.4bn per year to improve the school estate.

The unions, including ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, GMB, UNISON, Unite, and Community, and the National Governance Association said the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) scandal has highlighted the ‘crippling underfunding’ of the school estate, which has left many schools ‘unsafe and no longer fit for purpose.’

The letter cites the Department for Education’s (DfE) 2021 study, Condition of School Buildings Survey, which concluded that schools in England face a repair bill of an estimated £11.4bn. It also noted that four years earlier the National Audit Office (NAO) put the bill at £6.7bn.

‘Although the two surveys calculated their estimates slightly differently, there is no doubt that the leap from £6.7bn to £11.4bn – almost twice the original amount – signifies a considerable worsening of the fabric of the school estate in England over just a few years,’ read the letter.

The unions and the National Governance Association, the representative body for school governors and trustees of state-funded schools in England, called on the Government to invest at least an extra £4.4bn annually to upgrade school buildings, bringing the total yearly spend to £7bn.

Responding to the letter, a Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘We have allocated over £15bn to improve the school estate since 2015, including £1.8bn in 2023-24. All schools where RAAC is confirmed will be provided with funding including emergency mitigation work needed to make buildings safe. The Department will also fund longer term refurbishment or rebuilding projects to rectify the issue in the long term.

‘We have also committed to transforming buildings at 500 schools across the country through over the next decade through the schools rebuilding programme. This is on top of 520 schools already delivered since 2015 under the Priority Schools Building Programme.’

If this article was of interest, then check out our feature, ‘RAAC: what housing associations need to know about the concrete crisis’.

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