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Budget switch threat to education specialists

The funding crisis hitting schools across England and Wales could seriously damage practices specialising in education, the RIBA has warned.

The institute's concerns are prompted by a policy reversal by government to allow schools to reallocate the £500 million ring-fenced for capital building projects towards staff wages. It believes the move, designed to alleviate a huge £1 billion financial shortfall in inner-city schools, will threaten hundreds of schemes and could ultimately lead to a decline in educational standards.

The chair of RIBA London, Simon Foxell, said the institute is worried about the damage to both architects and education. 'It will get the schools and the government out of a short-term hole, but it is a really not a good idea, ' he told the AJ.

'Given the decades of under-investment, I hope that the real opportunity to do something about our education building stock is not just suddenly abandoned, ' Foxell added.

CABE commissioner and education specialist Richard Feilden agreed. 'It is a real shame that the government has finally admitted quality buildings really matter to school standards but has decided to go ahead with this policy anyway, ' he said. 'The Department for Education has got itself into a complete mess'.

'Taking out these capital building funds cannot be the right solution, ' Feilden added. 'Why bother ringfencing them in the first place?'

Practices that focus solely on education could be hit hard, warned Simon Allford, director of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. 'I would not want to work for an office that only does school work at the moment, ' he said.

'It would not be a good time to be following the peaks and troughs of the government's education budget, ' he added.

However, London-based de Rijke Marsh Morgan director Phillip Marsh said he suspected the problems might be exaggerated, as it is 'already true that that there is not enough money to achieve full potential anyway'.

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