Camden schools lose out on millions to repair aging buildings

09:48 01 June 2012

Cllr Theo Blackwell says he is considering a leadership bid

Cllr Theo Blackwell says he is considering a leadership bid

Archant

All but four of Camden’s schools have missed out on government funding for vital building work - sparking fears parents will ‘vote with their feet’ and send their children elsewhere.

The coalition government in 2010 pulled the plug on £175million of investment in the borough’s secondaries when it scrapped the previous Labour government’s Building Schools For The Future programme.

Four of Camden’s schools - Hampstead School in Cricklewood, Maria Fidelis Convent School in Euston, South Camden Community School in Mornington Crescent, and Swiss Cottage Special School - have been given cash for repairs under the new round of funding.

But Camden Council has warned the amount falls far short of the hundreds of millions needed to bring its schools up to modern standards.

Finance chief Cllr Theo Blackwell said: “If new investment is not put into school buildings, the children will suffer and learning suffers.

“Teaching in Camden’s schools is excellent but the buildings are getting old. There have been many schools in London that had government funding for substantial modernisation funded by the tax payer.

“We don’t have this. My fear is that without action, in five years parents will vote with their feet.”

He added: “Camden has been a place where people from boroughs like Islington and Haringey have sent heir kids.

“If we are not able to provide modern facilities then there could be a question of having surplus places in Camden’s schools rather than the intense competition that existed in the past.”

Among the schools that lost out on funding was Parliament Hill School in Highgate Road, Highgate.

John Blake, a former teacher at the top-rated girls school, told the Labour Party conference in 2010 that without desperately needed investment pupils were being taught in “a 40 year-old building rotting from the inside out”.

He told the conference: “We still have defunct buildings riddled with asbestos – we don’t use them any more, of course, but inner-city schools don’t have the space to keep buildings they can’t use.”

Camden’s schools need an estimated £250million over the next four years to bring their facilities up to standard. The government has pledged around a third of this.

In an attempt to provide the rest of this much-needed funding, the council has embarked on a major project to sell off buildings and plough the millions raised into school and council home repairs.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement: “I know that many schools will be disappointed not to be included in the programme.

“We have had to take difficult decisions in order to target spending on those schools that are in the worst condition.

“In order to ensure that the process was robust and fair, a qualified surveyor has visited every school for which an eligible application was received to verify the condition of the buildings.”

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