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700,000 children in England study in schools which require major renovation

Posted: 28th June 2023

Around 700,000 children in England are studying in schools requiring major rebuilding or refurbishment which can negatively impact pupil attainment and teacher retention, a new National Audit Office report on the condition of school buildings says.

The UK’s independent public spending watchdog’s report found that more than a third (24,000) of English school buildings are past their estimated initial design life. These buildings can normally continue to be used, but are generally more expensive to maintain and, on average, have poorer energy efficiency leading to higher running costs.

In recent years, there has been a significant funding shortfall contributing to deterioration across the school estate. DfE has reported £7 billion a year as the best practice level of capital funding to maintain, repair and rebuild the school estate. In 2020, it recommended funding of £5.3 billion a year to maintain schools and mitigate the most serious risks of building failure after expanding its school rebuilding programme over the next few years. DfE was subsequently allocated an average £3.1 billion a year of relevant funding from HM Treasury. This includes funding to re-build 500 schools over a ten-year programme, on which DfE is making slower than initially expected progress awarding contracts. Between 2016 and 2022, DfE spent an average £2.3 billion a year.

The report says DfE has assessed the possibility of a building collapse or failure causing death or injury as a ‘critical and very likely’ risk since summer 2021. The report highlighted ongoing concerns with the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) – a lightweight form of concrete prone to failure, used between the 1950s and mid-1990s. DfE has been considering the potential risk posed by RAAC since late 2018, following a school roof collapse.

The full report can be read here.