Saturday, December 9, 2023

Inadequate Funding For School Repairs

Derbyshire is only getting five per cent of the money it needs to make £150 million in repairs to its schools.

In 2018, the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed that the backlog in repairs to the schools overseen by Derbyshire County Council was a staggering £150 million, but that it was getting just £9.3 million from central government to cover the costs.

Now, two years on, the county is getting even less – £7.7 million – to make these vital repairs, five per cent of the total amount it needs.

This leaves the council only able to fund repairs for “the most serious” issues and look to its own dwindling budgets when considering demolishing dilapidated schools and rebuilding them.

The council previously said that its allocated funding was based on how many schools it has to look after – and with more converting to academies, either through choice or order, this amount is falling.

Two years ago, the council had responsibility for 326 schools, while there were 71 academies and 19 further schools going through the conversion process.

Now, the number of schools the council maintains has dropped below 300 to 297, while the number of academies has surged to over 100, to 111. There are eight further schools going through the conversion process.

A school is often ordered to convert to an academy by central government following poor Ofsted reports or budget struggles.

Once an academy, the school receives funding directly from central government and it has more of a say over opening hours, staff pay, curriculum, behaviour policy and uniform.

The council agreed in its cabinet papers on Thursday 23rd September to spend the £7.682 million allocated to it by government to make school repairs as part of its capital programme.

Officers wrote: “This is Department for Education grant funding to cover the cost of upgrading and maintaining the condition of school accommodation to suit the needs of education in Derbyshire.
“School Condition Allowance allows for only the most serious condition-related issues to be addressed given that the council has a backlog of school condition expenditure of £150 million.
“Projects funded on school buildings where the condition is poor include re-roofing, replacement windows and doors, re-heating and re-wiring.
“A priority list of potential projects will be finalised once the actual grant figure is known.”

A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “The school condition funding the council receives is based on the number of schools the authority maintains, so as schools convert to academies, the number of schools and the associated funding reduces. The funding is always used to address the highest priorities in terms of repairs.”

Schools like William Allitt in Newhall are in such disrepair that it would be cheaper in the long run to demolish them and build another, says the chair of governors there, Steve Frost.

When the Local Democracy Reporting Service visited the school in October 2018, it found props in place to hold up the roof – which have been there for several years.

Alongside this there was a raft of peeling paint, uneven floors, leaking ceiling tiles and grass and other vegetation growing on the roof and out of guttering.

Mr. Frost says the repairs needed at the time stretched up to £10 million while a replacement school could be £17 million to £25 million.

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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