Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School Building

The James report on capital spending makes interesting reading, as one might expect.  There’s a great deal of sense in there.  Money has been wasted because every school project in the country has been treated as a separate project with little opportunity for learning from successes and problems elsewhere.  Also local authorities are not always well placed to negotiate contracts with the construction industry and it has shown.  In the past, before being elected as a councillor, I heard senior people in a local company saying that the local councils were a “soft touch” as they didn’t have the expertise to challenge the proposals.  In recent years that company hasn’t been used by Stockton, but I wonder how many other companies across the country are saying the same sort of thing.  Reading the James report makes it sound as though it could be quite a number.
However, the remedy suggested by James – having centralised design and procurement – sounds as though it will cause alarm bells to ring in local government.  How can a centralised design system work unless the new school buildings are going to be put on green field sites?  Thinking of Egglescliffe school, where the preferred option for local people would be to rebuild on the current site, would a design work for there which would also work for the proposed free school in Ingleby Barwick?  Interesting times ahead, and a challenge for both local and national government to think differently about the best ways to achieve the goal of enough fit for purpose school places for every child in the country.  I do worry about how a central procurement system will allow for local firms to bid for local work, thus ensuring that some of the funding at least goes into the local economy.  That’s a real challenge for those planning the detailed response to the recommendations.
One aspect of the report bodes well for Stockton schools - James recommends that local authorities should do a survey of all their school buildings to see what state they're in and what improvements or replacements might be needed.  Stockton has already gone a long way towards doing that, so when the government decides on the budget for new school building and for improvements we should be in a position to make a strong case for what we need.  I know that Egglescliffe isn't quite the top of the pile - Ian Ramsay holds that dubious distinction.  But I also know that Egglescliffe does need a new building in the not too distant future and I'm hoping there's enough in the kitty to make it happen sooner rather than later.


treeclimber said...

Try sorting a school place out over here in Ingleby. We have a first rate school, but there are only 600 places. We argued that preston park was an ideal site to serve both Eaglescliffe and Ingleby.Thankfully that plan stimulated the debate we needed and we are getting a second school.
I agree that some schools are not maintained to a high standard, but this is the fault of the head teachers. Funds more than adequate were available in the last decade to maintain existing facilites. However some headteachers with one eye on the future decided not to apply for this funding. This was in the hope that if the school appeared to be falling down they would get a new one built.
Its time parents took control of the Governing bodies of schools to make sure that their children get the best out of what is available. bad planning by some heads has and is playing fast and loose with the childrens future

Anonymous said...

Egglescliffe school doesn't need rebuilding, it needs closing. There aren't enough children in Yarm to need two schools. Close one build a new one in Ingleby where there is demand and bus the few extra kids from egglescliffe to Ingleby. Simple and cheaper.