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Conservationists 'keep close eye' on schools demolition plans

The government's latest education initiative is set to become the latest conservation battleground in the UK.

The Department for Education and Skills has revealed plans to demolish or rebuild 900 of the 'worst condition' primary schools.

However neither ministers nor civil servants have revealed what qualifies as a poor condition school.

With echoes of the ODPM's pathfinder programme in the North of England, this has led some conservationists to question the government's commitment to architectural heritage.

One source at a high-profile conservation group confirmed that the organisation would be keeping a close eye on the government's actions. 'There are a lot of very fine primary schools out there,' he said. 'There are even some very good prefab schools.'

But the DfES says the announcement represents an extraordinary opportunity for both the schools and the architects commissioned to work on them.

The £1.15 billion programme will include:

º the 5 per cent of UK primary school buildings in the poorest condition being rebuilt or taken out of use

º another 45% to be improved or refurbished

º continued share of capital funding for maintenance repairs and improvements for the remaining schools.

Revealing the plans, education secretary Ruth Kelly said: 'It will take time but this government is committed to reversing the decades of neglect by transforming the primary school estate and the learning environment of our youngest pupils.

'Inspiring purpose-built buildings are a key part of providing an inspiring personalised education, fitted around the needs of young people.

'The plan we are putting forward today shows we are committed to tearing down and refurbishing those buildings no longer fit for purpose, supporting schools in being at the very heart of their communities,' Kelly added.

by Ed Dorrell

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