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£3.5bn primary schools programme outlined

Multi-billion-pound primary schools rebuild programme will be huge boost for construction industry

More than 1,000 primary schools will be rebuilt or refurbished as part of a new £3.55 billion programme announced today.

Schools secretary Ed Balls approved the release of £1.75 billion for building work and it has been matched by 133 local authorities across England, serving as a massive boost to the construction industry.

The projects are part of the Primary Capital Programme, which will invest £7 billion to rebuild or refurbish half of all primary schools by 2022-23.

Over 1,500 rebuilding or refurbishment projects will begin over the next two years.

Balls claimed the move was a chance to build state-of-the-art primary schools at ‘the heart of our communities’.

He said: ‘This is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform primary education in every part of the country – to sweep away buildings now reaching the end of their shelf-life and drive up the quality of our schools.

‘Such a massive capital funding injection will have big spin-off benefits for the construction industry and local businesses, who will be crucial to fitting out the new and refurbished schools.’

Ian Fordham, deputy chief executive of the British Council for School Environments, added: ‘The key now is to ensure this money is well spent in a common sense way. It must complement other broader educational agendas.’

The main elements of the Department for Children, Schools and Families' announcement are:

• Government publishes overarching national assessment of Primary Capital Strategies for Change from 148 local authorities in England. These identify the specific priorities for investment during the first four years of the programme.

• Ministers confirm that the following allocations have been made:

- 41 local authorities meet all the requirements set out in guidance and will receive their Primary Capital Funding for 2009-10 and 2010-11;
- 92 will receive details of their earmarked funding for 2009/10 with further work required to develop their plans before funding is confirmed for future years ;
- 15 will get additional intensive expert advice and support so they can resubmit their plans in the New Year;

• £1.75 billion will now be shared among all local authorities from April 2009. The total £1.9 billion Primary Capital Programme package was announced last September – including £150 million for 23 pilot local authorities in the current financial year;

• Local authorities are investing a further £1.8 billion capital investment, in the Primary Capital Programme; and

• More than 1500 primary and primary special-age schools rebuilding and refurbishment projects planned, include more than 350 new or replacement primary schools; major refurbishments/ new facilities at around 850 primary schools and more smaller building projects (less than 50% of floor area) at a further 350 schools.

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