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Minister set to scupper schools' development

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SCALA is concerned about the announcement by secretary of state for education Charles Clarke that he intends to allow schools to transfer delegated capital money to cover the predicted shortfall in many of their individual budgets this year.

Though it is appreciated that many schools face real difficulties this year, with the prospect of teacher redundancies and/or a shorter teaching week, we do not believe this is the right solution to the funding crisis.

Schools have been encouraged by ministers to produce their own building development plans through asset-management schemes and to use their delegated capital allocation to make improvements to their buildings on a year-by-year basis.

The technical and professional members of SCALA have been very supportive of this approach - it appeared to be the only way that many schools would be able to make real improvements to their buildings in the absence of other sources of funding.

Many of our members have gone even further, encouraging smaller schools in particular to enter into partnerships with their local education authority (LEA) by combining their delegated capital with the authority's own modest minor capital. This has produced projects that achieve real improvements to the learning environment and provide better value for money.

This short-notice transfer arrangement will put many of the long-awaited projects for schools this year in doubt, and could discourage further longterm planning and partnerships with LEAs if schools feel they need to husband their delegated capital to resolve similar difficulties in future years.

I have written to Charles Clarke informing him of SCALA's view.

Nigel Badcock, president, SCALA (Society of Chief Architects of Local Authorities)

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