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Gove’s £500m schools fund is a ‘plaster for a wound’

Contractors raise concerns over allocations as London dominates list for extra school places

A £500 million fund to build extra school places announced by Education secretary Michael Gove is a “plaster for a wound” and has been poorly allocated, according to contractors.

Mr Gove awarded more than 100 authorities a share of the funds last week at the same time as he announced a review of the school building regulations.

But while contractors described the money as a “positive step”, the way the funds have been allocated has raised concern.

Interserve divisional director David Large said the proportion of funding awarded to the capital – almost 50 per cent of the total – was “not in the best interests of the country”.

He said: “The schools, the teachers and the whole country were geared up to expect a considerable amount of spending but it strikes me that this is a plaster for a wound and I don’t think it will meet public desire, particularly in some areas.”

Wates group investment director and former head of education at Laing O’Rourke Stephen Beechey said the money would be a “much-needed contribution” to the dilapidated school estate.

“The money is a positive step but to some extent it is a drop in the ocean as we have 300,000 student places required over the next three years, which equates to around £3 billion of investment needed,” he said.

A further £2bn of funding is due to be allocated for “priority schools” later this year.

Redbridge was awarded the largest share – £28,652,011 – and led a top 10 including eight London boroughs.

Mr Gove said: “The nature of this funding – capital grant which is not ring-fenced; the nature of the projects it will fund – mainly small primary school projects; and the readiness of local authorities to get projects under way, mean that this money will be spent efficiently.

“I would like to reassure those local authorities whose needs were not as severe as others – and which, therefore, did not receive a share of this extra £500m – that future capital allocations for basic need and maintenance pressures will be announced later in the year.”

Contractors also welcomed a 12-week consultation on the revision of school premises regulations, designed to simplify current requirements.

Mr Large said that standardised school designs would help overcome the burden of regulations.

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