THE cancellation of £222m of investment in Rotherham's crumbling schools is a day of 'day of shame', according to a leading councillor.
The previous Labour government had promised improvements to every secondary school in the country as part of its Building Schools for the Future programme.
But in the shadow of a national debt creeping towards £1 trillion, the coalition’s cost-cutting crusade this week saw the axe fall on almost 20 new school buildings in Rotherham.
Cllr Ken Wyatt, Cabinet member for resources, said: “Remember this day of shame, when the UK Government stopped investing in decent schools for our children.
“Students and teachers will be left in rotting facilities and buildings long past their useful lives.”
The first phase of BSF would have seen modern classrooms and facilities on five sites where ageing buildings which have been used for generations.
Aston, Oakwood, St Pius, Swinton and Hilltop were among the schools patiently queuing for a much-needed rebuild.
Special schools Abbey and Milton were also expecting a share of more than £8 million which would have been spent on I.T. equipment. Maltby Academy’s proposed new build is now “for discussion.”
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Executive head teacher Anne Winfield changed roles at St Pius in order to oversee the BSF alterations, which would have seen a completely rebuild.
“We’re absolutely devastated,” she said. “This was a real chance for our children to learn in buildings that are fit for purpose and not 50 years old with leaks in the roof.
“As with the other phase one schools in Rotherham, we had an outline business case approved and meetings were set up to speak with potential bidders.
“It would have been a completely new school. The only part which would have been kept was the sports hall, which has only been up for three years.”
Oakwood head teacher David Naisbitt said: “This is an ageing school that’s creaking significantly and the new building would have brought us brand new 21st century facilities by 2014.
“We had plans for social spaces and gardens outside the classroom, too.
“For the whole of Rotherham, five new builds would have sent out a strong and obvious message about transforming learning.
“However, we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and do what we do best, which is trying to improve outcomes for young people.”
BSF in Rotherham has been running for more than two years, and wasted preparation work has cost the borough council more than £1 million.
Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Cllr Paul Lakin, said that scrapping BSF was devastating for thousands of Rotherham’s young people.
“We are downhearted but not defeated,” he added. “We have created a very strong partnership with schools, partners and communities, which is now central to how we plan for and provide services for children and young people.
“We should be proud of that and ensure that this is not lost now the funding has been taken away, so we can continue to raise attainment and standards in our schools.
“The five secondary schools in phase one are all in urgent need of redevelopment so we are now looking at other funding opportunities.
“We will also have to await the outcome of the Government’s capital spending review in the autumn.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove said that in light of the public finances, it would have been irresponsible to continue the “inflexible and needlessly complex” BSF programme.
Day of shame for Rotherham schools.
Maltby Academy's future thrown into doubt.
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What the Government says
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