Schools forced to find cash as repair crisis deepens

HEADTEACHERS across North Somerset say they have had to dig deep and find money to try to bring their schools up to acceptable standards after the Government axed cash they need for maintenance.

The Times has uncovered a catalogue of problems with classrooms, estimated to need tens of millions of pounds to repair.

Shocking sums of cash needed to repair and refurbish each primary and secondary school in this area can be seen in the table below.

The problems at each, many of the most serious type, were discovered after North Somerset Council carried out a survey of the buildings.

The results of this survey, unearthed by the Times through a Freedom of Information request, show that even the better-maintained schools need significant cash injections.

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The survey found more than �30million of investment was needed to address all the outstanding conditions, the most serious of which required �23million.

North Somerset Council carried out �1.8million worth of repairs after the survey, but has only been able to plan �2million into the budget for work in 2012/13.

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The recent effects of several schools becoming academies since the survey was carried out has reduced the local authority’s responsibility for maintenance, but the backlog of repairs North Somerset is responsible for still totals more than �20million.

North Somerset is rated as 141st out of 150 local authorities in terms of what it gets from the Government for each student. Following the survey it was found Gordano School in Portishead, which now has academy status, needed �4.89million spent on its buildings.

Since then, the school has managed to secure �2million for new sixth form facilities which are currently being built, and �2.4million for a new English block, which was completed last year.

Headteacher Gary Lewis said: “The school estate has improved immeasurably over the past year.

“We are incredibly active in seeking funding to improve our buildings because we know it makes an enormous difference to the quality of experience for the students.”

The school expects to receive some money from North Somerset Council for repairs and efforts have been made to redecorate the 1950s buildings to create brighter surroundings for pupils.

However, efforts to maintain the buildings have been hampered by the fact money which comes directly from the Government for such use has been slashed from more than �100,000 per year to just �30,000.

At Backwell School, which has buildings ranging from the original school built in 1955 to a brand new sixth form centre, the survey revealed a total of �3.1million needed to be spent on repairs and improvements.

Headteacher at the school, which also has academy status, Julian Baldwin, said: “We were fortunate to receive a grant of �2.3million towards our new sixth form centre, which not only offers excellent facilities, but allows us to develop the old sixth form centre into new classrooms for subjects, currently taught in our older accommodation.

“But this latest project, along with an additional science laboratory, is coming entirely from the school budget, because the money given directly by the Government to schools for buildings has been cut by 80 per cent.”

For those schools which have converted to academy status, giving them more control of their finances, the Government has set aside �276million for repairs and maintenance work, but they have to bid for the national pot of money and hope they will be successful.

Gordano has bid for funding from this to replace the leaking roof and out-of-date heating system in the art block as well as to fund the replacement of rotten windows in one building, which are set into walls containing asbestos.

Backwell has applied for funding from this pot to install new windows in the science and design technology block.

These are the results from the 2009 survey. �1.8million has been spent by North Somerset Council on repairs since then and another �2million is planned into the budget for the next financial year.

Primary schools:

- All Saints: �27,220.

- Backwell Junior: �1,092,849.

- Birdwell: �233,928.

- Court de Wyck: �172,338.

- Crockerne: �95,887.

- Flax Bourton: �29,481.

- Glebe Infant: �87,215.

- Golden Valley: �263,339.

- Grove Junior: �300,661.

- Hannah Moor Infant: �275,106.

- Highdown Infant: �249,138.

- Highdown Junior: �413,617.

- Kingshill: �59,076.

- Mary Elton: �94,018.

- Northleaze: �24,323.

- Portishead: �51,331.

- Ravenswood: �83,539.

- St John: �48,888.

- St Joseph: �33,640.

- St Katharine’s: �70,608.

- St Mary’s: �25,493.

- St Nicholas: �168,426.

- St Peter’s: �72,785.

- Tickenham: �17,485.

- West Leigh Infant: �152,251.

- Wraxall: �58,311.

- Wrington: �289,179.

- Yatton Junior: �429,962.

- Yatton Infant: �47,487.

- Yeo Moor Infant (now merged with Yeo Moor Junior): �376,679.

- Yeo Moor Junior: �459,158.

Secondary schools:

- Backwell: �3,106,376.

- Clevedon: �1,764,618.

- Gordano: �4,893,526.

- St Katherine’s: �1,541,520.

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