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Thousands of schools in need of immediate restoration work

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said staff were trying to teach in buildings ‘that are crumbling around them’.

Almost 4,000 schools in England are in need of immediate restoration work, according to figures seen by the Guardian (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Almost 4,000 schools in England are in need of immediate restoration work, according to figures seen by the Guardian (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Luke Powell

Almost 4,000 schools in England are in need of immediate restoration work – with many more lacking paperwork required by law, the Guardian has reported.

Figures from a Government programme assessing the condition of its schools estate showed 3,731 had buildings with “elements” requiring immediate replacement or repair, the newspaper said.

Those “elements” include roofs, walls or windows.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said schools across England were in “dire need” of repair, but funding was not available.

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Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner (Victoria Jones/PA)

She said: “That failure to invest has left our children and hard working school staff at risk, trying to teach in buildings that are crumbling around them.”

The data, obtained through freedom of information requests, was gathered by the Department for Education’s school condition data collection (CDC) programme, which was launched in 2017.

Information was released for 21,796 schools, of which 1,313 had elements that were given the lowest possible condition rating, defined as a “life expired and/or serious risk of imminent failure”, the Guardian reported.

It said 705 schools had more than two elements given the worst condition rating, while 69 had more than 10.

It comes as a survey by the National Education Union (NEU) – which was published in November – found 47% of 670 members said their school or college buildings were “not fit for purpose”.

A further 21% said parts or all of their building have been closed due to disrepair over the past five years, the NEU said.

FOI data obtained by the Guardian further revealed that 2,939 schools did not have an asbestos management plan, 2,717 did not have a fire risk assessment, 2,215 were lacking a gas safety test report and 2,098 did not have an electrical test certificate.

The Department for Education told the Guardian that in some cases the documentation could have been held off-site by multi-academy trusts managing the schools.

Kevin Courtney, NEU’s joint general secretary, told the newspaper: “It makes no sense for important practical documents, required by law, not to be held on the premises of a school or college.

“The reason the Government gives – that they may be held by a multi-academy trust would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. If they are missing how can the risk be safely managed?”

Responding to the findings, the schools minister Nick Gibb told the Guardian: “The Conservative government provides money annually to improve the condition of school buildings.

“In this academic year, over £1 billion has been made available. We also recently announced a £400 million fund for schools to improve their buildings.”

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