School repairs bill escalates
The cost of school repairs is set to double over the next five years, according to a National Audit Office report.
According to the NAO, the expected deterioration in the condition of the school estate represents "a significant risk to long-term value for money" for the government.
The Department for Education’s property data survey estimates it would cost a further £6.7bn for repair work to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition, and a further £7.1bn to bring parts of school buildings from satisfactory to good condition. The most common major defects are problems with electrics and external walls, says the NAO report, Capital funding for schools.
The DfE cannot yet assess reliably how the condition of the school estate is changing over time, but it estimates that the cost of dealing with major defects in the estate will double between 2015-16 and 2020-21, even with current levels of funding, as many buildings near the end of their useful lives. Much of the school estate is over 40 years old, with 60% built before 1976.
Building new schools also seems to be getting more expensive. The government plans to open 500 new free schools between May 2015 and September 2020 but the biggest risk to delivering these schools is the availability of suitable sites, the NAO report says. A lack of suitable land means that the Department for Education sometimes enters into complex commercial agreements and pays large sums to secure sites in the right places. The NAO found that while the average cost of the 175 sites bought by the DfE is £4.9m, 24 sites have cost more than £10m, including four that have cost more than £30m. To help secure free school sites quickly and at the best price the DfE is setting up a property company.
NAO head Sir Amyas Morse said: ““Having enough school places in safe, high-quality buildings in the right areas is a crucial part of the education system. The Department has responded positively to start to meet the challenges it faces in relation to the quality and capacity of the school estate. Significant challenges remain, however, as the population continues to grow and the condition of the ageing estate deteriorates. To deliver value for money, the Department must make the best use of the capital funding it has available - by continuing to increase the use of data to inform its funding decisions and by creating places where it can demonstrate that they will have the greatest impact.”
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This article was published on 22 Feb 2017 (last updated on 22 Feb 2017).