SCORES of schools left in limbo by a freeze on building projects face a long period of uncertainty, the Government admitted yesterday.
A review of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, affecting more than £1bn of projects in eight North-East local authorities, has not even begun, it emerged.
The admission means plans to renovate schools throughout the region are now uncertain.
Among them is a £41m project to refurbish three secondary schools in Darlington – Longfield, Branksome and Hurworth. Officials say no date for “financial close” has been set.
A department for education (Dfe) spokesman told The Northern Echo: “How we carry out the review has not been worked out yet. We are only three weeks into the new government and there has been a huge amount of work.”
The delay will come as a major disappointment to parents, teachers and MPs, who had urged ministers to end the anxiety as a soon as possible.
The controversy dominated education questions in the Commons yesterday, when Alex Cunningham, the Stockton North MP, said no secondary schools had been built in the town for 40 years.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Michael Gove revealed where the £670m of cuts allocated to his department this year will fall, including reductions in one-to-one tuition and the gifted and talented pupils programme New Diplomas in science, humanities and languages, due to be introduced from September next year, will be scrapped, although the move will save only £1.77m.
Mr Gove also axed schemes to offer free school meals to all primary school pupils in five areas from September, but the trial already under way across County Durham will continue.
BSF programmes have been frozen in County Durham (£398m), Hartlepool (£105m), Stockton (£171m), Redcar and Cleveland (£90m), Darlington (£41m), Sunderland (£127m), Gateshead (£85m) and North Tyneside (£89m).
In the Commons, Mr Cunningham warned of “considerable anxiety”, adding: “Some £5m has been invested by Stockton Borough Council and partners and they are hurtling towards appointing a preferred bidder.
“Can the Secretary of State please assure the people of my constituency, who have not had a new secondary school for 40 years, that children in our area can still look forward to new and redeveloped schools?”
Mr Gove said he sympathised with those affected, but said there was a need to review the entire BSF programme to deliver better value for money.
He added: “I know a significant amount has been invested in Stockton – more, perhaps, than needed to be, because of the addition bureaucracy.”
Speaking after Question Time, a DfE spokesman said BSF needed a root-and-branch review because £60m had been spent on consultants – and only 170 refurbished schools had opened.
Excellent. Mr Gove, have a beer on me.
I'm kind of glad this is happening, but the future might be far worse, who knows we just have to wait.
Yes, only time will tell. But I'm fully behind a review into value for money in BSF - that alone can't be a bad thing. But the alternative is still relatively an unknown quantity :)
I wouldn't get too gung-ho about BSF being scrapped - if it is then millions of pounds spent by the various Local Authorities and Schools in the lead up to the bididng process will be lost, budgets will be cut to make up for the losses (in addition to the cuts the Government are going to impose on everyone) and there will be no chance of buidlings being replaced or refurbished, any new ICT kit for many years and very little job security for ICT staff.
Working as a public sector employee is going to be a vary precarious place to be over the next few years as chops will be made - at least the private sector who already are guaranteed to be paid for exisitng BSF contracts will be under less pressure to make cuts.
Are you a private sector employee?
If you are it seems to me that you are gloating over the fact public sector workers are to be hung out to dry?
Hmmm.................let me think??????.................. if there are to be cuts in the public sector then how will that affect the ICT in schools that have been properly managed and strategically planned for the next 5 years with an interim 10 year strategy in place, all this at a fraction of the cost of a BSF managed service or a private sector MSU?
I fear they will still need the support of the IT teams they already employ even if they feel the pinch unless they want their investments in ICT go down the drain also which would be bad financial policy me thinks.
I also feel that the Government has other policies for schools up its sleeve when all comes to the fore (after giving the last Government a bad name ensuring that they don't get elected again for quite some time).
These are just my thoughts and they may not sit well with other people on this forum but all I can say is tough get on with it!!! ;)
I'm not gloating, just telling people to not get too excited about the prospect of BSF being scrapped without thinking through what the impact or alternatives may be.
What school do you work in that's had proper ICT investemnent and a 5 and 10 year planned strategy in place??? We have to bid every year for evey penny we can get in a budget and then it's usually taken back!
ROBOCOP said “What school do you work in that's had proper ICT investemnent and a 5 and 10 year planned strategy in place???”
My current one and from the sounds of it the school my brother recently got a job at has good ICT investment. I know some schools do have problems with ICT investment but many schools do have good ICT investment and the money has been used wisely.
As for a 10 year planned strategy. We don’t do that as we don’t believe it’s wise, at least not in detail. Sure a 10 year rolling replacement plan perhaps but not a full strategy. IT changes too much to predict 10 years ahead. How many would have predicted today accurately 10 years ago?
As we have been properly managed and had good investment I don’t believe a budget cut for a few years at least would have to much of an impact. For the next few years all we need to do is a rolling replacement.
Cuts in school funding for non-BSF schools means they cut back on anything & everything, including ICT kit & staffing levels & spread the pain to try and protect the curriculum.
Cuts in school funding for BSF schools means they continue to pay for their fixed price managed service to maintain their ICT solution & have to make more cuts elsewhere, so more pain is felt elsewhere & more staff could lose their jobs.......
You've hit the nail on the head there Broc.
Originally Posted by broc