In Depth

Reaction: Boris Johnson pledges £1bn ‘decade of spending’ on schools

Headteachers and analysts say funding falls well short of what is needed

Boris Johnson has announced £1bn funding for school building projects in England and a further £560m for repairs and upgrades.

But the pledged cash isn’t nearly enough, according to head teachers, who point out that the National Audit Office has identified a backlog of £6.7bn repairs needed across the nation’s 21,000 schools.

The spending watchdog listed the work required to bring school buildings to a “satisfactory” state in a report published back in 2017 - and the problems will have “worsened” since then, warns Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union.

Barton told the BBC that the prime minister’s funding pledge was a “significant step in the right direction”, but added that “far too many children are studying in buildings that are not fit for purpose”.

National Association of Head Teachers chief Paul Whiteman also welcomed the extra funding after a “decade of underinvestment”, but warned that funding for schools should “never be allowed to fall into such a perilous state again”.

Labour’s Building Schools for the Future scheme was scrapped by the Tories in 2010, “an initial casualty of austerity that halted 715 rebuild projects”, says The Guardian.

Luke Sibieta, a research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told Tes (formerly the Times Education Supplement) that even if the newly promised £1bn were added to next year’s capital spending budget for schools, “it would still only be sufficient to take spending back to 2015-16 levels and would still be well below its high point around 2010”.

Many other commentators are also less than impressed.

“Boris Johnson ain’t got no education, and now he’s trying to screw up everyone else’s too,” tweeted Fleet Street Fox, aka tabloid newspaper reporter Susie Boniface “His £1bn ‘school building programme’ is a £6bn cut on the promises he made only 6 months ago.”

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Labour leader Keir Starmer said that the Tories’ “record on building and investment has been a lost decade”.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson Layla Moran  told Schools Week that the funding announcement was “spin over substance”.

“Schools need urgent investment to increase space now, not vague numbers pulled out of thin air,” said Moran.

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