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Thursday, 01 July 2010 19:21

Cancellation of Building Schools for the Future: KOS July 2010

A full list of the schools affected with their designations is here.

Headteachers at 28 Kent secondary schools, 8 Special Schools and 4 Referral Centres were devastated on Monday to learn that the plans to rebuild their schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme had been scrapped. The vast number of hours spent by heads and governors in negotiating with architects and officials are wasted. The many hours of planning by staff to develop new methods for teaching and learning using opportunities created by purpose designed premises will be consigned to the scrapheap. Some of the Special Schools are required to admit children with complex physical and learning needs, but will now find it impossible to cater for these unless alternative funding can be found. Also spare a thought for KCC officers who have worked tirelessly through the mass of red tape imposed on them, to try and ensure the best for our schools.

For the following schools in Thanet - Clarendon House Grammar, Chatham House Grammar, Foreland Special, Hartsdown Technology College, Hereson, Laleham Gap (Special), Northwood Centre, St Anthony's (Special), Stone Bay (Special) and Ursuline College; and in Gravesend - Gravesend Boys & Girls Grammars,  Meopham, and St George's CE ,along with Portal House (Special) in Dover, the shock was so much greater. For in these schools building plans have nearly all been finalised and construction due to begin in the near future. They will now have to compete for students with the gleaming new premises of those schools who have benefited from BSF. Hartsdown is not alone in Thanet in having very poor buildings and now little prospect of these being eased. 8 newer Academies already operational or in the planning stage whose replacement buildings have not begun (at an average cost of some 40% more than mainstream schools), are to have any plans reviewed in the summer. It would, however, be bizarre if many of these were upheld, as new Academies converting from mainstream schools join them on an equal basis in September with no prospect of new buildings.

This is a sorry end to a project that promised so much. However, it is important to realise what has been achieved. Paul Carter, KCC Leader has taken a personal interest in attracting maximum capital expenditure to Kent, which historically had low levels of investment in school buildings. His drive and vision means we now have new schools worth some half a billion pounds, either completed or in construction. These include all other secondary and Special Schools in Gravesham and Thanet through BSF (most of which are close to completion), 9 Academies, and 6 secondary schools built under separate PFI funding.  Parents in many parts of Kent will be aware of other major investments in new or replacement buildings for schools of all types. Whatever the future holds, these remain and nearly 20% of secondary schools will have been completely or substantially rebuilt; an impressive record of investment in the future of our children.

I saw a few of the complications of BSF as a Governor of Ifield Special School, the first Kent school to be completed with BSF funding. Because of the special nature of our project, involvement with bureaucracy was mainly limited to agreeing contracts for ICT equipment and services. Three governors spent innumerable hours grappling with details of complex documents and requirements to meet impossible deadlines (we are of course all unpaid volunteers). The headteacher and senior staff spent much greater time. However we did have the satisfaction of seeing our work come to completion. What about those governors who see their work junked? Sadly a few will walk away in disgust, never to return. What about children whose education has suffered, as heads and staff have had long periods of absence dealing with BSF issues? That cannot be restored. It would have been good to see Michael Gove acknowledge this labour and sacrifice.

Whether this dramatic purge was necessary in full is for others to pronounce on. I only know it must be wrong to put part of the proceeds towards the bribe to persuade mainstream schools to become academies themselves, with another portion going to start up free schools that will often be set up to suit self-interest groups who have little interest in the education of the majority.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:25

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