Building Schools for the Future

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North 10:30 am, 15th March 2007

How many projects have been completed under the building schools for the future programme.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

The first local authority projects are due for completion in 2009. I opened the first BSF "quick-win" schools in Solihull in June of last year, and the first BSF school to be procured through a local education partnership is on schedule to be open in Bristol in September 2007.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. In Stoke-on-Trent, we have an excellent record in the transformation of primary schools—in rebuilding and refurbishing them. It is essential that we now get on with the transformation and that we put the new capital investment into secondary schools. We want that programme, under building schools for the future, to go ahead as quickly as possible. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would meet me in my constituency and have talks with his noble Friend Lord Adonis, who also has ministerial responsibility for schools, so that we can make sure that each school in my constituency is at the heart of the community, is an extended school, and is able to contribute to the regeneration that is so desperately needed—and which is already under way—in Stoke-on-Trent.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

I know that my hon. Friend has taken a keen interest in those matters, and that she has met my noble Friend Lord Adonis and senior officials to make sure that we spend well the £181 million that we have committed to secondary schooling in Stoke. I will, of course, be happy to meet her and to make sure that senior officials are working with her to ensure that we are investing that £181 million on the basis of having quality rather than mediocrity.

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Is there not an enormous gap between what the Minister has just told the House and what his Department published in its document "Building Schools for the Future", which said that in 2007, 100 school buildings would open, and in 2008, 200 school buildings would open? Will he confirm that those figures should be five school buildings in 2007 and 23 in 2008? Will he give the House an explanation for that extraordinary delay, and an authoritative time scale against which we can judge the Government's performance in the future?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I gave evidence to the Select Committee on that very issue and was extensively questioned on it. We look forward to the Committee's report. Building schools for the future is a major project on an unprecedented scale and we deliberately started in the most difficult areas, because those are the ones that need the investment the most. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we have to ensure that we get the quality right.

If, as in Stoke-on-Trent, we occasionally need to reassess the initial plans in order to improve them, and therefore it takes a little bit longer to get them right, that is what we will do. However, 25 authorities have joined up or have completed procurement. Most of the wave 1 projects that have not yet signed up are near to financial close, with more than 50 more schools opening in the next two years.