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£15bn needed for safe schools

Around £15bn is needed over the next four years to guarantee every child a school place in a safe environment, research suggests.

Nearly £5bn is considered essential for the next financial year (2011-2012) alone to ensure youngsters are taught in safe and structurally sound classrooms, it found.

The study, conducted by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), questioned local councils on their capital needs for education and children’s services, and how much of this is necessary to meet mandatory requirements on providing school places and health and safety. Around 40% of authorities replied.

The findings, extrapolated to include councils that did not respond, show that £15bn is the minimum investment, considered “essential” by local authorities, to ensure that every child has a safe school place.

Of this, £4.7bn is deemed essential for 2011-2012.

Overall, councils said they need £29.3bn over the next four years - including the £15bn “essential” investment.

This money includes a small amount for children’s services capital investment, such as children’s homes.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We’re clear that all future capital investment needs to go where it is needed most. Ministers want to target schools in most disrepair far better and deal with the urgent demand for primary school places - a problem we cannot afford to ignore.

“We announced a major review in July to overhaul how we invest in, design and build schools. We need to be getting as much bang for our buck - all children and teachers should have the right to learn and teach in a safe environment so all future capital investment must be realistic and affordable; offer far greater value for money; and have far less red tape and bureaucracy.”

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