Making the school estate fit-for-purpose

The first 50 schools have been chosen for rebuilding work under the government’s ten-year programme. We look at the first wave of the programme and some of the projects involved

Last June, the Prime Minister announced a ten-year rebuilding programme for schools, the first major rebuilding programme to be launched since 2014.

Schools in England in the worst condition will benefit from additional investment, and schools and colleges will also receive funding  to refurbish buildings. The programme aims to deliver 500 rebuilding projects over the next decade.

The rebuilding programme kicked off in February this year, with the first 50 projects being confirmed, supported by over £1 billion in funding.

Projects range from replacing or refurbishing individual buildings through to whole school rebuilds.

The first 50 schools chosen include primary, secondary and specials as well as a sixth form college in West Yorkshire, with more than 70 per cent of the schools in the North and Midlands. The initial rebuilds and refurbishments will create modern education environments, providing new facilities from classrooms and science labs, to sports halls and dining rooms. The schools will also be greener, helping meet the Government’s net zero target.

When announcing the first 50 projects, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "The rebuilding projects are just the start of our major ten-year programme, transforming hundreds of schools and improving the education of tens of thousands of children."

Project planning for the 50 rebuilds is already advanced on a number of schools following site visits last year, so construction can begin on the first projects from autumn 2021. The majority of the first 50 rebuild projects under the programme are expected to be completed within three to five years.

The programme will also help create jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities across England, with suppliers offering training and apprenticeships as part of their work on the rebuilds.

The investment of over £1 billion to support the first round of the School Rebuilding Programme comes on top of £1.8 billion earmarked for school repair and upgrade projects over this coming year.

Prioritisation of schools

The first 50 schools were prioritised either because they have buildings of specific construction types that require replacement, or their buildings have the highest condition need, identified in data collected by the department in the Condition Data Collection and verified through collecting additional condition information.

For the next projects later in 2021, the DfE plans to publish details of the prioritisation process, as well as consult on its approach for later rounds in the 10-year programme.

In future rounds, there will be opportunities for the bodies responsible for school buildings to submit supplementary information about severe condition need, where it is not fully captured in the Condition Data Collection.

Sports facilities

The government also investing more than £10 million for school sports and swimming facilities in England. This funding will be distributed through Sport England and will build on existing funding to help schools open their facilities outside of school hours, and encourage pupils to be more physically active.

The sports facilities funding will be distributed through Sport England and their county level networks, Active Partnerships, who will work with local schools to identify who are most in need. Schools in disadvantaged areas, or areas with high inactivity among children, will also be given the opportunity to bid for funding. The investment can also support schools with opening in a Covid-secure manner, such as with additional signage, touch-free entry and cleaning equipment.

The funding can also support facilities to improve accessibility, especially for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. This could include buying adaptive sports equipment, like sensory balls for the visually impaired or wheelchair-accessible equipment.

Free schools

As part of the programme, there will be 21 new free schools, with ten opening in some of the most deprived areas.

Unity Howard Director of New Schools Network said: "This is fantastic news for communities across the country. Free schools have an incredible track record of driving up standards, and we have seen over the past decade just how popular free schools are with parents.

"The groups planning these new free schools should be proud; the free school application process is demanding, and this year they have dealt with additional uncertainties owing to the pandemic. I wish them the very best of luck as they begin working towards welcoming children through the doors of their new schools in the years to come."

The 21 new free schools reflects the government’s continued commitment to the free school programme. 558 free schools have already opened across the country to date.

Getting the most from the funding

Speaking about how to get the best out of the funding, RIBA President Alan Jones said: “Well-designed schools have the power to shape society – improving the attainment, behaviour, health and wellbeing of every child.

"As the government’s ten-year rebuilding programme gets underway, it is crucial to focus on the delivery of good quality design, sustainability and safety.

"To ensure the best outcomes for students, teachers and the taxpayer, the government must commit to monitoring the performance of the new buildings once they are in use through Post Occupancy Evaluation – and use these findings to ensure each project is better than the last.

"Furthermore, vital safety measures including the installation of sprinklers must also be prioritised in the design of new and maintenance of existing school buildings. Alongside the CIOB, RICS and NFCC, the RIBA is continuing to call for this to be mandated.

"This is a critical opportunity to have a transformative impact on the lives of future generations – the government must get it right.”

Warwickshire new secondary schools

Three of Warwickshire’s secondary schools had successful bids under the government's programme. Kineton High, Southam College and Hartshill School will all undergo major rebuild and development at their sites, with an investment of around £60 million.

The work will be funded and project-managed by the Department of Education, while Warwickshire County Council will facilitate the delivery of the rebuilds.

These rebuilds will sit alongside other major school projects such as the forthcoming new All Through School at Oakley Grove in Warwick, the new Houlton School in Rugby and The Warwickshire Academy in Bedworth.  

The announcement also follows news that Higham Lane North secondary school will be built in Nuneaton, offering 900 places as part of the Government Wave 14 Free School Programme.  

Cllr Hayfield, Portfolio Holder for Education and Learning said: “We are delighted to secure the success of Kineton High, Southam College and Hartshill School with the Government’s scheme. Warwickshire secured funding for three schools out of 50 which is a tremendous success rate.

“This is no coincidence. Our approach was enabling and removed any blocks to progress. Not only will this help us to meet the increasing need for secondary school placements, it will do so with high-quality facilities that are fit for purpose for this generation of students.”

Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School in Coventry was also selected for a rebuild as part of programme.

The school, which was originally built in 1969, will become a modern education environment with new state of the art facilities.

Headteacher Ms O’Connor said: “This school benefits from such fantastic staff whose commitment to the community is outstanding.

“To be able to serve the parents and students in a state of the art, purpose built school is something everyone deserves.”

John Teahan, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Holy Cross Catholic MAC, said: “We are really delighted and very excited to be embarking on this project.

“The new building programme will be enhanced by the current £4million investment for a new canteen block due to be completed in June.

“Together they will give our students a fantastic new learning environment to develop even further the many successes and strengths of the school.”

State of the art classrooms

Under the programme, the King Edmund School in Rochford, Essex, will demolish one of the current blocks of classrooms later this year, replacing it with new state-of-the-art facilities and 30 classrooms.

The school was forced to close in October for four weeks because of over-running building works. Repairs to the front of the school were due to be completed in August but overran and temporary classrooms were set up.

Jonathan Osborn, headteacher at the school, said: “We are thrilled that students will have access to modern, first-rate facilities in the very near future.

“This will provide a great boost to students’ education, allowing us to further develop the breadth of our curriculum offer, and will also enhance the educational opportunities available to younger students in the local area as they reach secondary school age.”

It is hoped the new block will be ready to open by September 2023, at the beginning of the 2023/24 academic year.  

Meanwhile, three schools in Rochdale have secured funding to have new sites built as part of the rebuilding programme.

Littleborough Community Primary will be having a whole new school, while Kingsway Park High and Newhouse Academy will both be benefiting from substantial building work.

The new Littleborough Community Primary School building will deliver a replacement new school with 14 new classrooms, new sports/assembly hall, nursery, for a 420-place school (60 places in each year group) and a 26-place nursery. Work on the new site is due to start from September 2021.

Louise Woodman, head teacher at Littleborough Community Primary, said: "I am delighted that we have been chosen for a new school. This is going to be really exciting for us and the wider community. Our children will be so thrilled and this is going to be hugely beneficial for them."

Schools in need of investment

St John Fisher Catholic High School, The Byrchall High School, Fred Longworth High School and St Thomas’ CE Primary School in Wigan have been chosen for rebuilds as part of the programme.

Alison Rigby, Headteacher of St John Fisher Catholic High School in Wigan, said: "We cannot express our sheer delight that our young people will have access to modern, state-of-the-art facilities in the future. We all know buildings don’t educate children, people do, but the environment in which children learn and are encouraged to grow is vital in producing decent human beings.

"It is great that our school has been identified for this investment – we have a unique sporting heritage – we have produced international Rugby league, Rugby Union and Netball players and athletes – despite our modest sporting facilities!

"This new build project will boost our curriculum offer and provide fantastic facilities in which our learning community will continue to flourish, and, most importantly, build confidence in our young people because they will feel valued and invested in and – ultimately, loved."

Alex Gallimore, director of business and finance at Fred Longworth High School, said: "This is fantastic news for the school and will enable us to provide the modern, state-of-the-art facilities that our students and staff deserve.

"A lot of hard work and planning has taken place over the past two years to put the school in a position to replace our building stock, most of which are mid-sixties ‘Intergrid’ style blocks.

"We are currently well under way with a £3.3m project to replace the maths and humanities block following a successful bid for funding early last year and now we can confirm that we are receiving additional funding to replace the remaining buildings.

"Great things already happen here at Fred Longworth and this next phase of rebuilding will complete our property strategy to create a modern, efficient and engaging learning environment to enable us to raise the bar even higher. It’s certainly going to be an exciting few years at Freddie’s as we see the new school develop."

In Lancashire, Tarleton Academy, Lytham St Annes High School and Whitworth Community High School will benefit from the rebuilding programme.

At Tarleton Academy, the school is to be knocked down and a replacement state of the art school will be built on a new site within its grounds.

Headteacher Lesley Gwinnett said: "We are so pleased that in the next few years our students and staff will have access to modern, state-of-the-art facilities. Current plans will retain our existing sports hall, but we are looking forward to a brand new swimming pool.

"The new school will be set much further back on the site, around where the existing sports hall is situated. We are taking seriously the impact on our neighbours and careful planning will ensure that the new build will be an improvement for everyone in the village and surrounding areas."


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