15 Mar 2011 : Column 1P


Tuesday 15 March 2011



Branfil Primary School (Upminster)

The Humble Petition of parents of pupils at Branfil Primary School (Upminster),

Sheweth, that the Petitioners believe that there is an urgent need to rebuild Branfil Primary School; notes that part of the school have needed to close on many occasions, following the recent flooding of the Foundation Stage building, and other failings of services over the years; that children and teachers are missing out on important schooling, or that schooling is being compromised, by the fact that these facilities are not fit for purpose and need to be rebuilt this year; and that the petitioners believe that this is an embarrassment and that it is not acceptable for these buildings to be used for another winter.

Sheweth, that prefabs were originally constructed as temporary measures, but they are still standing 60 years on; that these structures may be suitable for garage or shed purposes, but they are not suitable for educational needs; that all classrooms are extremely cold throughout the winter, as there is no insulation; that the toilets are very cold and exposed to the elements all year round, because the doors are kept open because they are too heavy and dangerous for the children to use; that heating failures and burst pipes have closed the school, and seem to be a usual winter occurrence; that corridors are becoming wet and dangerous in wet periods, which is a risk to pregnant teachers; that there is asbestos present in the roofing material and perhaps in other areas, which is a health hazard; that the cost of heating and repairing the building must be very high over the long term; and notes that these are only a few of the health and safety and cost issues which should be taken seriously.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Government to take all possible steps to ensure that Branfil Primary School is rebuilt.

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And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Angela Watkinson , Official Report, 31 January 2011; Vol. 522, c. 5P.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

On 20 October, the Chancellor announced that Department for Education capital spending would be £15.8 billion over the four year comprehensive spending review period. Although, the average annual capital budget over the period will be higher than the average annual capital budget in the 1997-98 to 2004-05 period, this does represent a sharp reduction from very high levels of spending in 2010-11. Over the next few years our priority is to reduce the country’s budget deficit. This is essential, as the amount we are currently spending on debt interest payments could be used to rebuild or refurbish 10 schools every day.

We know that there are schools such as Branfil Primary school in need of refurbishment which have missed out from previous Government capital programmes, and that people feel they have therefore been treated unfairly.

We will be introducing a new approach to capital allocation which will prioritise ensuring enough places and addressing poor conditions as quickly as we can. This model will be outlined in the capital review which will report in the next few weeks. Within the funding available to us, our intention is that the new model will prioritise areas which are experiencing high pressures to increase the number of school places, and those with buildings in the most need of repair.

Even where funding is tight, it is essential that buildings and equipment are properly maintained, to ensure the health and safety standards are met, and to prevent a backlog of decay building up that is expensive to address. Therefore, in 2011-12, £1,337 million will be available for capital maintenance for schools, with over £1 billion being allocated for local areas to prioritise maintenance needs. In addition, £195 million will be allocated directly to schools for their own use.

The capital allocation for 2011-12 for the London borough of Havering and its schools was announced on 13 December. The council now needs to consider how it prioritises the available funding, having regard to the building needs of the schools in its area.