Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580-599)



  Q580  Paul Holmes: The figures for the cost of building new schools, on average we are told that a BSF school is about £14.5 million and that an Academy is about £25 million. The Government quibble about this. In Nottingham's experience what is the cost of the two areas of schools that you have either built or are about to, and what was Jim's cost?

  Mr Archer: Obviously, I do not know about Jim's cost. The figures that we are looking at obviously vary according to the size of the school, but I would have said slightly more than the £14 million, nearer towards the high teens of millions for the average type of comprehensive school that we are going to build.

  Q581  Paul Holmes: What about the three Academies?

  Mr Archer: The Academies are going to be built to the same funding formula. Back to the previous question, managing that tension between expectation and reality, I think, could be quite difficult.

  Q582  Paul Holmes: What was the cost of your Academy?

  Mr Burke: Capital cost was just over £16 million, £16.5 million. That is for 7,800 square metres.

  Q583  Paul Holmes: Does that include all the design costs?

  Mr Burke: There are the fees on top of that. In total I think everything came to around £20 million with the fees.

  Q584  Mr Marsden: What proportion of your students at the Academy are special needs or children with disabilities, would you say? What sort of numbers?

  Mr Burke: On the special needs register we have approximately one-third of the school. Statementing is quite low, about 2%, which is fairly average.

  Q585 Mr Marsden: The reason I ask the question is we are talking about sustainability, and access is part of that as well. I just wondered, accepting they are not all going to be in a wheelchair or have that sort of physical disability, to what extent access was built into the design process and to what extent you are finding fewer difficulties in accommodating them compared with your experiences in traditional schools previously?

  Mr Burke: Of course the building has to comply with DDA regulations, which it does, so there is no problem in terms of physical access. I think the issue is curricular access given the large number of youngsters with special needs that we have. That is where most of our energies are aimed. In terms of the predecessor school, it is very similar, because the predecessor school was similarly in a disadvantaged area with similar numbers of youngsters with special needs. What we are finding though is that we can far greater meet the needs of our youngsters with special needs in a learning environment such as we have with the emphasis on technology, just with the whole building. It is a lighter, airier building and it is more conducive to learning. There is no doubt that a building can have a direct impact on youngsters learning, particularly youngsters with special needs whose needs generally, certainly in the predecessor school, were not well served.

  Q586  Chairman: Do the students love the school?

  Mr Burke: Absolutely, they are very proud of the school. When we have visitors, which we do regularly, the youngsters take the visitors round and, without exception, we have had terrific feedback about how knowledgeable, how keen, how proud they are of the school, so it has made a fantastic difference in terms of self-esteem.

  Q587  Chairman: In your part of Liverpool, was there ever any thought of making a multi-faith Academy embracing other faiths.

  Mr Burke: Well, I would argue that ours is.

  Q588  Chairman: It is dual.

  Mr Burke: It is dual, it is Catholic/Church of England, but really it is Church of England/community. So, in fact, if you look at percentages, it is somewhere in the region of 50% Catholic youngsters, probably 15% Church of England and the rest are youngsters of no faith and other faiths.

  Q589  Chairman: Do you have a substantial number of Muslim children?

  Mr Burke: We are increasingly attracting some, because the predecessor school was a Catholic school. We are now joint-faith but our admissions area is the immediate area of Kensington and Fairfield where there are a significant number of youngsters with English as an additional language, so our numbers will increase as the Academy grows.

  Q590 Chairman: Are you totally happy with your architect and your builder?

  Mr Burke: Yes, without a doubt.

  Chairman: That is a good recommendation.

  Q591  Stephen Williams: A quick question to Mr Burke first and maybe the other witnesses as well. In these sessions when we talk about sustainability we tend to look at the carbon footprint, how the school contributes to current learning patterns or the wow factor for the children, that you have essentially just mentioned, but "built to last" ought to be part of sustainability as well. How confident are you that the children of Fairfield and Kensington, I think you said, in Liverpool will still be going through the gates of this school in 2106?

  Mr Burke: Do you mean will it be attractive to them?

  Q592  Stephen Williams: Will the building still be there?

  Mr Burke: The concrete structure has a 200-year lifespan, we know the wood has a 70-year lifespan, and so in terms of sustainability I think we have got reasonable value for money.

  Q593  Stephen Williams: So the wood is there for the next 70 years?

  Mr Burke: Yes.

  Q594  Chairman: What do you make of the suggestion that all schools should have sprinkler systems put in when they build them? Is that part of sustainability? Do you have them in your school?

  Mr Burke: No, we do not.

  Q595  Chairman: Is that not an horrendous cost for insurance if you do not have a sprinkler system?

  Mr Burke: You mean because we do not have a sprinkler system, did the costs go up? Not at all. We are a concrete mass school.

  Q596  Chairman: It is just that we were told that many schools are not having sprinkler systems, and this Committee has been told that every school really should have them, and that in fact the payback, in terms of reduced insurance premiums, is that you will have paid for it in six years. Chris, what is your philosophy on this? Is it part of sustainability to have sprinkler systems built into a modern school?

  Mr Archer: Our thinking at the moment is that we probably will, driven by our insurers to make that a likely necessity, yes.

  Q597  Chairman: We visit schools in terms of all sorts of inquiries and we go to some newly built where they say, not just sprinkler systems, "We have cut this out, we have cut that out", and they seem to be concentrating on the upfront capital costs, whereas they are not looking at what the payback would be in terms of reduced energy bills and insurance premiums over a 10, 20-year lifetime. Is that something that you recognise, Chris?

  Mr Archer: I think there is a definite danger that the long-term is going to be sacrificed for the short-term. Obviously, PFI contracts lead you towards certainly a 25-year period and considering sustainability over that period of time, but there is not any doubt, the talk that we have had of a once in a generation opportunity to renew, and so on, means that we have to get this right for a sustained period of time. We have got to imagine that these buildings are still going to be occupied in 100 years' time, like some of the Victorian ones we have talked about, and therefore we have got to do our best to ensure that they are within the value for money and the timeframe that we have got.

  Q598  Chairman: Have you got a sustainability champion in Nottingham?

  Mr Archer: We have got a member who is a sustainability champion who, I have to say, makes demands on the BSF team on a constant and regular basis, yes.

  Q599  Chairman: He sounds like a good lad to me. It is probably a woman actually.

  Mr Archer: It is not in fact, it is our Deputy Leader.

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