UK PM promises $1.23bn for school building projects

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised funding worth 1 billion pounds ($1.23 billion) for 50 major school building projects in England, it was reported on Monday.

The 50 school building projects, which will be identified later in the year, will start from September 2021, in a 10-year programme which Johnson will launch on Monday, reports the BBC.

There will be an extra 560 million pounds for upgrades and repairs to schools for the next academic year; and 200 miliion for improving further education colleges, which was previously announced, will be brought forward.

“It’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” said Johnson.

“This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings.”

But head teachers said the National Audit Office had identified a backlog of 6.7bn repairs needed across England’s 21,000 schools.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, welcomed a “significant step in the right direction”, but said “far too many children are studying in buildings that are not fit for purpose”.

He warned that repairs were “desperately needed and long overdue”, and highlighted the concerns raised three years ago by the public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, saying that the problems would have “worsened” since then, the BBC reported.

In a report from 2017, the NAO warned of deteriorating school buildings – and said it would cost 6.7 billion pounds to bring buildings to a “satisfactory” level and a further 7.1 billion pounds to bring them up to a “good condition”.

It reported that many school buildings were “near the end of their useful lives” – and that major defects were likely to increase.