The Government needs to urgently tackle England’s crumbling school buildings, teachers have said, as figures show nine in 10 schools have at least one part of their buildings in need of repair or replacement.
The National Education Union, which represents more than half a million teachers, said it was “shocking” that of 20,000 school buildings inspected between 2017 and 2019, a total of 19,442 had at least one building component that had “major defects” or was “not working as intended”.
The union added that the £1bn the government is investing in what it called “state of the art” refurbishments of 61 schools was “a drop in the ocean”.
Analysis by the Liberal Democrats also found that more than 5% of building components, such as roofs, windows, doors, electricity and light fittings, across all of England’s school properties – 240,000 items – were found to be defective, being rated as “ bad” or “poor” by surveyors.
Officials estimate it would cost £11.4 billion to carry out all the necessary repairs.
The City of Durham was the constituency with the highest percentage of school building components – almost 12% – rated poor or poor.
In the South West Norfolk constituency of Liz Truss, the Conservative leadership candidate and Secretary of State, more than 91% of schools had at least one building component rated as poor, ie shows major deficiencies. Fourteen schools had at least one component rated poor, requiring immediate replacement.
In Richmond, North Yorkshire, the constituency of Truss’s leadership rival, Rishi Sunak, the situation was similar, with 91% of schools having at least one “poor” grade component. Meanwhile, 21 schools contained at least one building component rated as “poor”.
The figures were released by the Department for Education in response to a parliamentary question asked by the Liberal Democrat education rapporteur, Munira Wilson.
Dr. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said it was a “shocking fact” that 90% of school buildings in England required major repairs.
She said: “All children deserve to learn in safe and comfortable, high-quality buildings. But by 2022-23, capital funding is £1.9bn less a year in real terms than it was in the last years of the Labor government.
‘Capital spending was the biggest cut to education and was imposed immediately after the 2010 election. If the government had not cut Labour’s school rebuild programme, £2bn more would have been spent on school and university buildings.
“The Government’s recent announcement that £1bn would be invested in rebuilding or refurbishing 61 schools is a drop in the bucket.
“The Government needs to show much more ambition and urgently address these issues in a strategic way to show that they really believe in investing in the future of our students.”
Wilson said: “These shocking statistics show that the Conservatives have neglected our school buildings for far too long.
“When Liz Truss was in the Treasury, dozens of schools in her own constituency needed urgent repairs and before Rishi Sunak stood down as chancellor, the government cut this year’s school maintenance budget in real terms.
“The Liberal Democrats believe that education is an investment in our children’s future. Instead of arguing about the past, the Conservative leadership candidates should explain how they will protect schools from skyrocketing energy bills this winter.”
A Department for Education spokesman said the figures were not new and added: “The safety of pupils and staff is paramount. We have one of the largest and most comprehensive condition data collection programs in Europe and it helps us assess and manage risk across the estate .
“Buildings where there is a risk to health and safety will always be a priority and we have committed over £13 billion since 2015 to improving the condition of school buildings and facilities, including £1.8 billion this financial year. In addition our new school regeneration program will transform the learning environment in 500 schools over the next decade, prioritizing schools in poor condition or with potential safety concerns.”