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Conservative MPs vote to cover up dangerous school buildings

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Conservative MPs have voted to hide detailed data of crumbling school buildings as Schools Minister Nick Gibb failed to name the 39 schools that have closed since the last election as they were unsafe for pupils. 

296 Conservative MPs voted against the Opposition Day motion to publish findings from the Condition Data Collection survey conducted between 2017 and 2019. 

The survey data provided the Department for Education with detailed information regarding the condition of every school building in the country. 

After a series of questions tabled by Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Munira Wilson, the Government revealed parts of the survey data, including that:

  • 7,158 schools in England contain at least one building component, such as a roof, door or light fittings, deemed to be “life expired and/or at serious risk of imminent failure”;
  • Almost nine in 10 schools have at least one building component that has a “major defect” or is “not operating as intended”.

Overall, more than 240,000 fixtures and fittings were found to be defective. 

However, the Government has still refused to confirm which schools in the country have these defects and today voted to keep the names concealed despite a previous pledge to publish the data in full.

Additionally, Schools Minister Nick Gibb failed to name the 39 schools that have partly or fully shut their doors since the last general election due as they were unsafe for pupils.

Speaking after the vote, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Munira Wilson said: 

“It is an absolute disgrace that this Conservative Government would vote to cover up the names of school buildings built from dangerous or ‘life-expired’ materials.

“Parents deserve to know whether their child is being sent to a school that is safe and fit for purpose, or to a school liable to collapse at any moment. Yet Ministers won’t even name the schools that have had to shut because they were unsafe for pupils.

“Liberal Democrats believe that investing in education is investing in our future generation. Every crumbling school is a concrete sign of years of Conservative neglect of our public services. Parents, staff and pupils have all had enough of being taken for granted.”

This comes after Labour, on Tuesday, forced 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.

Lives could be at risk without urgent government investment in school buildings says NAHT

Responding to schools minister Nick Gibb’s pledge to publish full school building condition data before the end of the summer recess, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“It is important that there is transparency about potential safety risks in schools.

“Of course, publishing the data is only the first step and, by itself, does not solve the problem. This data needs to be followed by an ambitious plan and major new government investment in school repairs and rebuilding.

“Capital funding for school buildings has been halved in real terms, and only 50 schools a year now benefit from the government’s school rebuilding programme.

“Continued failure to act with the necessary urgency risks putting the lives of children and school staff at risk.”

The pledge was made this evening during an Opposition Day Debate in Parliament on the safety of school buildings in which Labour attempted to force the government to publish data from surveys of schools buildings carried out between 2017 and 2019 by June 5. MPs voted 296-171 to reject that proposal.

The Department for Education’s “Condition Data Collection” programme, run between 2017 and 2019, sent building surveyors and engineers to inspect 22,031 state-funded schools. Each school building was divided into its constituent parts, known as “construction types” (e.g. “natural slate pitched roof”) and given a grade:

  • A (good: performing as intended)
  • B (satisfactory: performing as intended, but exhibiting minor deterioration)
  • C (poor: exhibiting major defects and/or not operating as intended)
  • D (bad: life expired and/or serious risk of imminent failure).

Answers to parliamentary questions tabled by Munira Wilson MP, published here and here, reveal that:

  • Overall, over 218,000 construction types were graded C and 24,000 graded D, out of 4.21 million construction types across state schools in England. This means 5.76% of all construction types were graded C or D.
  • 19,442 schools (88.2% of all schools that were inspected) had at least one construction type graded C.
  • 7,158 schools had at least one construction type graded D.

The Government plans to repeat the survey by inspecting all schools again before 2026. More than 2,600 schools have been inspected to date but Ministers have refused to publish a summary of the findings.

Further written questions tabled by Munira Wilson MP revealed that the Department for Education is aware of 39 state-funded schools in England that have closed all or part of their school site since December 2019 because they were unsafe for pupils. Of those:

  • 3 schools permanently closed their entire site;
  • 5 permanently closed part of their school site;
  • 23 temporarily closed their entire site;
  • 8 temporarily closed part of their school site.

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