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Changes in capital spending since 2009-10

In financial year 2022-23 capital spending by the Department for Education was around £5.3 billion in cash terms and £5.5 billion in real terms 2023-24 prices (after adjusting for inflation). This includes capital spending on schools as well as other establishments such as early years, or further education providers.

Overall, between 2009-10 and 2022-23, Department for Education capital spending declined by 28% in cash terms and 46% in real terms.

Planned capital spending for 2023-24 is around £7.0 billion which is a 28% real terms increase compared to 2022-23.

School Rebuilding Programme

On 29 June 2020 the Government announced what the Education Secretary described in the House as “a 10-year, multi-wave rebuilding programme for schools,” to replace “poor-condition and ageing school buildings, with modern, energy-efficient designs.”

The first 100 projects for the School Rebuilding Programme were announced in two stages in February 2021 and July 2021.

There was a consultation between July to October 2021 on prioritising schools for further phases of the programme. The Government published its response in February 2022.

In March 2022 nominations for school projects closed, 1,105 nominations were received. In July 2022 61 of these were successful.

In December 2022 a further 239 schools were added to the list, bringing the total number of schools in the programme to 400.

DfE Annual Report 2021-22: A significant risk

The Department for Education’s annual report for the financial year 2021-22, published in December 2022, identified the condition of school buildings, particularly those built between 1945-70, as one of six ‘significant risks’ the Department was managing. The report noted that the situation had worsened during the year, and was unlikely to improve during 2022.

National Audit Office report

The National Audit Office published a report on the Condition of School Buildings in June 2023.

The report said that, “following years of underinvestment, the estate’s overall condition is declining and around 700,000 pupils are learning in a school that the responsible body or DfE believes needs major rebuilding or refurbishment.”

The NAO said that the rate of school rebuilding is significantly below what the Department for Education estimated was required to maintain the school estate, and that there was also an unknown number of schools that may need rebuilding due to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC)

There have been serious concerns about the use of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in school construction. RAAC is a lightweight, ‘bubbly’ form of concrete commonly used in construction between the 1950s and mid-1990s.

In August 2023, it was announced that a number of schools had been told that they may need to shut buildings following the discovery of RAAC. This followed earlier closures and relocations of schools where RAAC has been discovered.

The DfE’s published data (as of 16 October 2023) states that there are 214 schools across England with confirmed RAAC. 202 are providing full-time face-to-face education, with the other 12 providing hybrid arrangements.

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