Gove gives £500m to fund extra school places in England

20 Jul 11
English councils will receive an additional £500m this year to fund additional school places, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced yesterday.

By Vivienne Russell | 20 July 2011

English councils will receive an additional £500m this year to fund additional school places, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced yesterday.

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Gove said the money would go to the areas with the greatest demographic pressure and would be aimed particularly at primary schools, where a shortage of places is most acute. Further details will be provided over the summer and finalised in the autumn.

His statement, delivered to MPs, also announced the start of a consultation on school funding. Gove said this outlined ‘fair and comprehensive’ reform of the way schools’ revenue funding is determined.

‘At present, similar schools in different areas can receive very different amounts of funding for their pupils. This is not fair,’ the education secretary said.

‘That is why I’m proposing a new fairer, national funding formula, with appropriate room for local discretion, in order to have a simpler, fairer and transparent system.’

Two other consultations were also announced: one with local authorities on the funding they lose to academies, and a second on the implementation of the James review of schools' capital spending.

Gove said he accepted the majority of Sebastian James’ recommendations subject to consultation.

Recommendations to be taken forward include a full survey of the school estate; the introduction of a single and clear set of school premises regulations; and greater standardisaton of school building design.

But Gove also announced the launch of a new, privately financed school building programme to address schools in the worst condition.

‘The programme will be open to local authorities and schools that had been due funding via Building Schools for the Future but, critically, it will also be open to those, who despite real problems, had never been promised BSF funding,’ he said.

The programme, worth around £2bn, will cover between 100 and 300 schools, with the first expected to open in September 2014.

The education secretary also announced his decision regarding the six councils that appealed against Gove’s decision to scrap their BSF projects. In February, a judicial review found that the education secretary’s failure to consult prior to halting the scheme was both ‘unfair’ and ‘unlawful’. Gove was told to reconsider his decision in these six cases with an ‘open mind’.

Speaking yesterday, Gove said that while the Department for Education would indemnify the councils for their contractual liabilities, he was ‘not minded to restore their specific BSF projects’, although they have a further opportunity to make representations before he makes a final decision.

Gove added: ‘This decision, if confirmed… does not mean no new school buildings in their areas. They will all be eligible for support from the new programmes I am establishing to cater for the population growth in the areas most in need and the worst dilapidation.’

The Association of School and College Leaders said a longer-term capital plan was needed.

ASCL policy director Malcolm Trobe said: ‘We are looking for proposals that will deliver a sustained improvement in the quality of our school and college buildings: there are too many students in antiquated, dilapidated accommodation and the needs of these schools and colleges has to be addressed.

‘Those schools that were part of the judicial review of BSF withdrawal will be greatly disappointed that this statement does nothing to address their needs.’

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