What assessment she has made of the adequacy of the information her Department makes available on the condition and safety of school buildings.
Well maintained, safe school buildings are essential, and it is the responsibility of academy trusts and local authorities to maintain school buildings and keep them safe. The Government carried out a review of them back in 2014; since then, we have completed one of the largest reviews in the UK public sector, in which we reviewed every state school in the country, and we are undertaking a further survey. We have allocated over £15 billion since 2015 to improving the condition of school buildings. That includes £1.8 billion committed for the financial year 2023-24. Our school rebuilding programme will transform buildings at 500 schools, prioritising those in poor condition with potential safety issues.
I think the Secretary of State is presenting a rather rosy picture, because the Government have admitted that it is now very likely that some school buildings will collapse, owing to a decade of inadequate funding and serious structural issues. She did not say that her Department has failed to publish data on where those buildings are, and what repairs are needed. May I tell her about a school in Kingston upon Hull North, on Hall Road? It has been raising the alarm about its dilapidated state for many years, but so far under the school rebuilding programme it has only been selected to attend a seminar and fill in a questionnaire. Will she tell me when that school in my constituency will be rebuilt, as is absolutely necessary?
I assure the House that there are no open areas in school buildings where we know of any immediate safety risk. If the Department is made aware of any dangerous building, immediate action is taken to ensure safety and remediate the situation. To address the challenges in the school estate, we first needed a true understanding of its condition. That is why it is so disappointing that over the 13 years of the last Labour Government, including when the right hon. Member served as Minister with responsibility for schools, there was not a single comprehensive review of the condition of the school estate, so we had a lot of work to do, but we now have full data.
I thank the Secretary of State and the Minister for Schools for the efforts made when asbestos was discovered in the King Edmund School. I appreciate the work that the Secretary of State is doing. Is she particularly concerned about the impact of aerated concrete on schools, and on children’s education when remedial works are done?
The Department is gathering information from the responsible bodies in all schools, further education colleges and local authority maintained nurseries. We are asking them to complete a questionnaire on the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete on their premises. That questionnaire covers nearly 22,000 schools, 230 further education settings and 371 nurseries. It is the responsibility of academy trusts and local authorities to maintain those settings and keep them safe, but we want settings to submit a response to the RAAC questionnaire, and I urge all those that have not yet done that to do so, so that we can take action.
One of the first decisions that the Government made on coming to power was to cancel seven school rebuilding programmes in my constituency. Since then, we have seen greater cuts to local government spending, so the buildings have continued to disintegrate. Will the Secretary of State guarantee that some of the resources that she has mentioned will go to schools in Redbridge and Waltham Forest, to stop their further disintegration?
Since 2015, we have allocated over £15 billion to maintaining and improving the condition of the school estate. Our school rebuilding programme will transform buildings at 500 schools; 400 of those have already been announced, including 239 in December, but there are more slots to allocate. We will prioritise buildings in poor condition and those with potential safety issues. The Minister for Schools is always happy to meet to discuss specific schools.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the school rebuilding programme, which is welcomed by Government Members —it is an innovation that we appreciate—will transform the educational environment of hundreds of thousands of children, particularly those in schools in the poorest condition?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. I have been to many schools that are not only rebuilding the schools but transforming their facilities, so that children have excellent conditions in which to get the most fantastic education.