A MULTI-million pound scheme to improve secondary schools in Coventry could be under threat.
The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme was introduced by the previous Labour government and aimed to improve secondary schools across the country.
In Coventry 20 secondary schools were up for getting a slice of £330million that was awarded to the city.
But Tory MP Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said the BSF scheme is under review, which has caused concern to Coventry MP Geoffrey Robinson.
The Labour representative for Coventry North West, has highlighted two schools that desperately need funding in his constituency and raised this at a House of Commons education question time on Monday.
He said: “I asked: Will the minister confirm as soon as possible that two schools in my constituency – President Kennedy and Woodlands, where the buildings go right back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, and one of whose buildings is being held up on all four sides by scaffolding, will figure in the programme, and when can he confirm that to them?
“He replied the BSF project had been allocated on the basis of deprivation, not of the state or
dilapidation of the building and he will consider the two schools I mentioned and write back to me.
“So I guess I will have to wait to see what his response is.
“I don’t mind it (BSF) being reviewed but there needs to be structure and this is what concerns me.”
In a Hansard report of Monday’s question time, MP Michael Gove said he wanted to get “better value for money” as a lot had already been spent on consultations that haven’t resulted in schools being re-built yet.
He said: “My department is currently reviewing the BSF programme to ensure we can build schools more effectively and more cost-efficiently in the future.
“I intend to ensure we prioritise capital spending to ensure in areas of real need, the taxpayer and teachers are given better value for money.
“Under the last government a significant amount of the cash was devoted to BSF and was spent on consultancy and other costs, which did not contribute directly to raising standards or to employing a single builder or plasterer, or anyone else whom he would no doubt wish to continue to see employed.
“I therefore hope we do everything possible to ensure that we obtain better value for money from this programme.”
Woodlands School, in Broad Lane – which has one of its school blocks supported by scaffolding – was due to be one of the first schools in Coventry benefiting from BSF funding.
But headteacher Neil Charlton is worried the money could be lost.
“We have had scaffolding on one of the blocks for four years now, but I’d like to add that the school is structurally safe,” he said.
“Having said that, because we are an old building it needs improving – it’s an eyesore because it is more than 50 years’ old and doesn’t have double glazing.
“In the past four years I have personally put in hundreds of hours in meetings and proposals with this.
“Because the school is a listed building we’ve had to convince English Heritage that we should be able to modify it.
“And we should be getting £20.5million in BSF funding to re-build one block and re-design the other two.
“My school needs doing and it needs doing now, otherwise the fabric and quality of education to children will be detrimental.
“I can understand the BSF scheme may need to be reviewed, but I think schools like this one, which has gone so far down the road – we’ve even got planning permission – should be given the go-ahead.
“We’re down to two bidders at the moment, who would carry out the work, that is likely to start next February.”
No one from President Kennedy School was available for comment.
What do you think? Write to us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.