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Education secretary bemoans lack of data on school buildings

13/02/15

Department spends four years compiling register on 27,000 schools, which will be made public

Department for Education (DfE) by Paul ClarkeA giant Whitehall database has been used to help allocate repairs cash to every school in England, bypassing local authorities.

The Department for Education (DfE) has spent four years compiling an exhaustive register setting out the physical condition of all 27,000 schools, using some facts and figures held by councils.

The move followed criticism of the lack of reliable data currently held by some local authorities, which were accused of carrying out "a largely desk-based exercise" in the past.

Now ministers have announced annual maintenance grants for every head teacher - while warning they will face action if they fail to spend it wisely.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan made clear that the consequence of more accurate data and giving individual schools the money was closer scrutiny - urging parents to keep tabs on how it was spent.
She said: "We will collect information from all bodies responsible for the maintenance of the school estate on how they have used their funding. The information will be simple, high-level and easily accessible to the public."

Morgan said the switch was possible because her department now had a "property data survey" - "the most comprehensive survey of the school estate ever undertaken". She said: "All of those responsible for schools will now receive funding in proportion to the size and condition of their schools.

"The reforms are a major step towards ensuring that all children have access to a learning environment which is safe and fit for purpose, no matter where they live."

The move will be seen as a further centralisation of the schools' system, because local authorities have traditionally drawn up strategies for repairs.

Cash has been allocated according to "size and type of the school" - giving a typical secondary school between £10,000 and £20,000 and a primary school £5,000-£8,000. Nevertheless, in 2015-16, more repairs cash will still go through councils and academy trusts (£1.2bn) than directly to schools (£200m), for "small-scale capital works".

Pictured: Department for Education (DfE) by Paul Clarke © | paulclarke.com

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