UK PM sets out fit-for-future 10-year schools rebuilding plan

Aditi Khanna

London, Jun 29 (PTI) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out radical plans for a transformative 10-year rebuilding programme for schools across England. The rebuilding programme will start in 2020-21 with the first 50 projects, supported by over 1 billion pounds in funding.

'As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission,” said Johnson.

'This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings so that every child gets a world-class education,” he said.

Downing Street said that further details of the new, “multi-wave” 10-year construction programme will be set out by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the next Spending Review expected later this year.

Meanwhile, investment will be targeted at school buildings in the worst condition across England – including substantial investment in the northern and Midlands region of England – as part of Johnson’s General Election pledge to level up opportunity for all.

“All children deserve the best possible start in life – regardless of their background or where they live,” the prime minister said.

A further 560 million pounds will go towards repairs of schools, with 200 million pounds ear-marked for upgrades to Further Education (FE) colleges this year.

“Replacing and upgrading poor condition school and college buildings with modern, energy efficient designs will give our students and teachers the environment they deserve, and support them to maximise their potential,” said UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

'As we look forward to this September and all children returning to school, we can be assured that for years to come this country’s education system will drive opportunity and prosperity for all,' he said.

Downing Street said the fast-tracked activity will further support the government’s wider plans to protect jobs and income in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. It said the rebuilding projects will be greener, helping meet the government’s net zero target, and will focus on modern construction methods to create highly skilled jobs and boost the construction sector.

UK Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan added: “This investment is fantastic news for colleges and means they can kick start work to refurbish their facilities and equipment from as early as this September.

“The FE sector will play a pivotal role in our economic recovery post-COVID-19, ensuring more people can gain the skills they need to get ahead.” The announcement is directed towards England as schools and education is a devolved subject for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The move comes amid a wider shake-up within government quarters, with the UK's top civil servant stepping down as Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser. Sir Mark Sedwill will exit his dual posts in September, making way for Johnson's chief Brexit adviser David Frost.

The shake-up is seen as part of long overdue plans since Johnson’s landslide win in the December 2019 General Election, with his Chief Strategy Adviser Dominic Cummings pushing for an overhaul of the civil service.

The Opposition Labour Party has criticised the government for focussing on “reshuffles” in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

“I don’t think that now is the time to start moving around senior civil servants. We've got an economic crisis just around the corner,” said Labour Leader Keir Starmer. PTI AK ZH ZH