Labour will today (Tuesday) force a vote on the publication of long overdue data revealing to parents the condition and location of crumbling school buildings, that the Conservative government has admitted are “very likely” to collapse.
The party intends to use a Humble Address motion in the House of Commons to force the publication information about the true state of England’s 24,000 school buildings almost two years after the School Buildings Condition Survey revealed “alarming” problems within the school estate.
An internal government report leaked to the Observer newspaper in May 2022 revealed that school buildings in England are now in such disrepair they posed a “risk to life”.
The Department for Education subsequently raised the risk of school buildings collapsing from “critical” to “critical – very likely” in its annual report in December 2022, after an increase in serious structural issues being reported.
Despite assurances given to Labour in Parliament that further data detailing the precise condition of individual buildings would be published by the end of 2022, the Schools Minister backtracked refusing to give a date for publication when questioned in the House of Commons earlier this year.
The Conservatives have failed to get to grips with the crumbling state of school building since then Education Secretary Michael Gove gave a public apology for cancelling Labour’s Building Schools for the Future Programme.
This comes after DfE announced over £450 million investment to improve school buildings.
Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“For two years Conservative ministers have pulled the wool over parents’ eyes instead of telling them the truth about the realstate of their children’s school buildings.
“Years of Conservative neglect of the school estate means that children face disruption to learning as well as direct threats to their safety – yet parents are still in the dark about the scale of the problem.
“That’s why Labour is giving Conservative MPs a choice today: they can show they’re on the side of parents, or a government that wants to keep families in the dark about the safety of school buildings.”
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said;
“It is disturbing that the Government has let school buildings fall into such a state of disrepair that some even pose a risk to those who work and study in them. It is equally disturbing that despite the warnings Government either does not know, or will not tell us, which buildings fall into this category.
‘In one of the most advanced economies in the world it is shocking that children, young people and school staff work and learn in an environment that is dangerously unsafe.”
Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:
“It is unacceptable for the Government to sit on vital information that affects the day to day safety and welfare of children, young people and staff working in schools.
“School staff and parents have a right to know if their schools are at risk and what is being done to ensure the safety of their schools.
“That we have a situation where some schools are at risk of collapse is the result of years of chronic under-investment in our education system and the school buildings estate by this Government.
“Schools are now counting the cost of the Government’s reckless decision a decade ago to abandon the Building Schools for the Future programme. Rebuilding and refurbishment investment is at a fraction of what is required to keep pupils and staff able to learn and work safely.
“Recent funding announcements are simply insufficient to make up for the decade plus of cuts and under-investment in the schools estate.
“Ministers have a duty to reveal where these dangerous school buildings are, explain what steps they are taking to urgently make them safe and to commit to an investment programme that means pupils and staff will never find their safety compromised in this way again in future.”
UNISON head of education Mike Short said:
“The potentially dangerous state of some school buildings is a matter of urgent public interest. Parents, carers and staff should be told if any school buildings are on the brink of collapse.
“This is a disaster waiting to happen. By concealing the truth, ministers are failing in their duty of care to protect thousands of pupils and staff by exposing them to such threats.
“It’s high time they came clean about the state of disrepair in many schools. A recently announced increase in 2023 schools funding falls way short of what’s needed to make schools safe.”