Craig Tatton is Managing Director for U.K. Building at Tilbury Douglas

"Education is a passport to a better life", so said Malcolm X the iconic 1960's American Civil Rights campaigner. 

And in 2021, in a time of global uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic still causing significant disruption, we have rightly been focussing on the medical response to the crisis. 

But the education of the next generation and their 'passport to a better life' has become an increasingly critical issue.

With lockdowns earlier this year, home schooling became the norm and placed significant pressure upon parents, families and children.

It's clear that along with many aspects of life, schooling and education provision will not just return to normal once the pandemic is over. COVID-19 and the response to it have shown that a more flexible, blended approach to learning is needed. Whether that be increased use of smart technology or teaching online, it is clear education provision has radically changed and will change further.

Indeed, at Tilbury Douglas, where building schools is one of our specialisms, we have seen an increase in the requirement for improved I.T. infrastructure in both new and refurbished schools.  

During these uncertain times, the Government must continue to invest in the education sector, not only in new schools but also in ensuring the existing education estate is up to date and fit for the modern learning experience.

For example, in 2017, the National Audit Office found that over 60% of England's schools were more than 40 years old, and £6.7 billion would be needed to bring England's school buildings up to a satisfactory or 'better' condition.

A further £7.1 billion will be needed to bring these school buildings from satisfactory to good condition.

Last year, The Prime Minister pledged to bring forward £1bn of capital investment to fund the first 50 projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme - with a further £1.5bn for refurbishing F.E. colleges.

In the same vein, we have seen the Chancellor Rishi Sunak continue this commitment by ringfencing £560m to modernise and repair existing facilities. This is to be welcomed by the sector and shows the Government's commitment to education. 

For many years, Tilbury Douglas (formerly Interserve Construction) has shown it can deliver modern schools and colleges and, like many in our industry, we look forward to playing a part in building a new class of modern and greener schools. 

Last year alone, Tilbury Douglas won contracts to deliver 17 new schools across the U.K including nine SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) schools. 

As a sector, we have shown our flexibility and our ability to support the Government's economic recovery and investment in education.

We can create jobs, apprenticeships and T level training opportunities for our young people, whilst ensuring our schools, colleges, and universities are fit for the future – a future that every child deserves. 

Craig Tatton is Managing Director for U.K. Building at Tilbury Douglas

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