Saturday, 24 July 2010

The education world after capital investment

The Church of England primary school in BurnestonImage via Wikipedia
Despite the furore surrounding the halting of the Building Schools for the Future programme, there will continue to be a need for leaders in education to continue to do what they've always done - inspire children and young people to create new futures through new ways of looking at the world.  High quality leadership in schools, colleges and local authorities will be critical to ensure that we have the skills, knowledge and imagination that will equip the next generation to have the tools to meet some of the challenges ahead.  Central to this new world will be the need to create more for less, to stretch the limited and limiting resources that will come from the double whammy of cuts in public spending combined with an increase in the student population.  This is bound to lead to a decrease in the per capita funding for schools, whilst at the same time central Government will be able to argue that the overall level of public spending in education has gone up.

Moreover, the burgeoning primary school aged population in the South of England will necessitate a need for more school places.  Already in parts of London the demand for primary school places is way in excess of the available supply and without capital investment programmes, it's not clear where these children will be educated.  The idea that somehow the 'magic hand of the market' will just sprinkle pixie dust on the chronic problems of lack of space, lack of resources and lack of places shows a singular misunderstanding of how to plan schools and is in danger of creating a free for all - with signficant numbers of young people losing out. 

One of the benefits of the BSF programme was that it made local authorities think through the issues of demand and supply and plan strategically to meet them.  Working with projections for future numbers of school pupils meant that public money wasn't going to be wasted on classrooms which may not be needed and an overview could be taken of the most effective way of using the whole school estate.

A strategic approach to capital investment in schools is critical now, not just because of the need to create spaces which inspire and equip young people for the 21st century, but also because without such a planned approach, we are in danger of wasting public money at a time when we can ill afford to.

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