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Labour pledges £13bn to boost schools estate

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Labour has pledged £13 billion to refurbish the country’s schools and build more to meet shortfalls

In a speech at the Labour Party Conference, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the party will ’provide the full £13 billion needed for the existing school estate’.

According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, she added that £8 billion will be invested on building new state schools.

Rayner went on to slam the Conservatives’ free school programme as ’inefficient’ and said Labour would instead use money invested into this programme to ’ensure our schools are safe’.

This would include removing flammable cladding, installing fire sprinklers in schools and clearing asbestos.

Rayner said: ’Councils are required to find a school for every child. We will give them the resources to meet that responsibility.

’Unlike the Tories, we will help successful state schools expand and ensure that every child gets a school place.’

Last year, procurement specialist Scape Group revealed that the country was facing a schools shortage, with more than 2,000 schools needed by 2020 to meet the shortfall.

The Department for Education has estimated that the number of primary school pupils will increase by around 9 per cent and secondary school pupils by 12 per cent in the next four years.

Scape has estimated that two schools need to be built every day to cope with this demand.

However, industry leaders have questioned whether free schools are the best way to deliver this shortfall, after it was revealed the programme has spiralled in cost and under-delivered on schools.

Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office revealed that in 2010 the Department for Education estimated it would cost £900 million to open 315 free schools by March 2015.

However, by March 2015 the programme had ballooned to £1.8 billion, with 305 free schools having opened.

Between 2015 and 2016, an extra £980 million cash boost was given for free schools and an additional £7 billion was allocated to deliver 500 further free schools by September 2020.

After the government committed £320 million more to build 140 extra free schools in its spring Budget last year, Scape chief executive Mark Robinson questioned whether the government was ’spending its resources wisely’.

He said: ’There’s capacity within existing schools’ structures to extend and provide additional capacity that way.’

Willmott Dixon education sector director Andrew Alsbury said planning represented a crucial challenge facing the delivery of free schools.

’Where you have a free school in an area where a local council doesn’t want it to be and it has difficult planning constraints, it is harder to drive through,’ he said.

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