The scrapping of the revolutionary Building Schools for the Future programme serves as a triple whammy to the people of Brent and represents a false economy from Sarah Teather’s Education Department.
First and foremost, it is a cut aimed at the group in society who had no say in the election; children. Instead, the Lib Dem / Tory Coalition has rushed through the Academies Bill, advocating a ‘Free Schools’ policy aimed at schools already doing well and ignoring the issue of there being a shortage in school places in Brent, and fails to address the need to improve our failing schools. Every child should have the right and access to a decent standard of education in a respectable environment and the cuts will mean that children will continue to be educated in dilapidated buildings, unfit for the twenty-first century and that there will not be enough school places to meet the shortages.
Secondly, the building works programme provided an opportunity for stimulus in the building and construction trade. Many are still feeling the effects of the recession and the forthcoming VAT rise will increase the price of building materials, affecting profit margins and thereby adding greater financial pressure in the sector.
Thirdly, schools serve as community hubs. The scrappage deprives young people of decent standard activity centres. Schools buildings can be utilised by Local Authorities to provide after hour services for young people. Better standard building and halls also boost the commercial potential of the schools. Many local people use school halls for weddings and hire them out for private functions and parties.
The Education Department’s Permanent Secretary admitted in a letter to former Secretary of State Ed Balls, that the programme had Treasury approval and had not received any objections. We know there is money for our schools, after all, where will the money for the free schools policy come from?