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Do school buildings matter?

11:50 UK time, Thursday, 8 July 2010

Two headteachers of Sandwell schools hit by the government mistake over building cuts have said Education Secretary Michael Gove should rethink his plans. Is the condition of a school building more important than the quality of teaching?

The coalition government's decision to axe the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme means 715 schools will see their rebuilding projects cancelled.

A number of schools that thought their building plans had been saved have now been told they are in fact being cut. Mr Gove said he had sought to ensure the new list was "as complete as possible and as accurate as possible", adding that he took "full responsibility for that regrettable error".

He has also said that the financial situation means he has to prioritise funding to try to reduce the £155bn budget deficit, and believes that the BSF programme was not value for money and was over bureaucratic.

Are you a parent or teacher worried about these cuts? Should there be more focus on the quality of teaching rather than on school buildings? Should financial cuts be made in education? If so, how would you make the cuts?


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  • Comment number 1.

    "Is the condition of a school building more important than the quality of teaching?"
    No; as long as the building is safe. Emphasis should always be on the quality of the teaching and not the massaged exam statistics, as has been the case for more than a decade.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is a red herring: there has never been a correlation between School buildings & academic excellence, or the attainment of a good education. The age of the buildings would often imbue a sense of history & tradition, all on the positive side. After all, Shakespeare did not have the benefit of our flush lavatories or electricity.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is the condition of a school building more important than the quality of teaching?

    Only if it is in suchy a state that pupils can't concentrate.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who attended primary school in the 1980s, when many 'classrooms' consisted of knackered old Porta Cabins which were introduced as a temporary measure the decade before.

    It was fine in the summer, but I still shiver remembering the winters as me & my classmates tried to learn whilst fully clad in hats, scarfs and gloves. - Writing in woolley gloves- harder than you'd think.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes, your surroundings can effect your whole attitude; you see that in Schools, businesses and around our towns. If areas are decaying, cover in rubbish, untidy or dull it sets the theme and effects the mindset; you also see same effect in shops, we buy from places that look clean, neat, tidy and exciting.

  • Comment number 5.

    When I was at junior school in the late 50's we had 50 plus to a class, and in my form 48 passed the 11 plus. We had outside toilets, and no modern facility's, just good teachers. That really is all it takes.

  • Comment number 6.

    So Gove thinks that this scheme was over bureaucratic and not value for money. You can bet your bottom dollar that the CON-DEM alliance won't replace it with anything thus condemning these state schools to deteriorating buildings and facilities. So much for improving the education of our children.

  • Comment number 7.

    School buildings matter. Education is now a competitive business where each school is trying to entice different students and their parents. The concept of 'choice' means that schools are having to produce overly expensive glossy prospectuses and websites to bring in students.
    Which would you choose a school that is brand new with great sports facilities and clean teaching areas compared to a similar school with leaking roofs, old sports equipment, worn chairs and tables, poorly designed corridors for movement? Some would argue its about results, which is true. However, shiny things also attract people.
    There is also the added concern of students. Imagine you are a student in a school that has leaks, paralysingly cold in winter, oppressively hot in the summer and disgusting toilets, how would you feel?
    Students need the resources and assets that will help them achieve.
    Please do not take this post as an endorsement for PFI I agree it was badly planned with many individuals pocking large sums of tax payers money, but we need to recognise the need to replace 70's designed schools.

  • Comment number 8.

    Does it affect the teaching quality.......No
    Does it mean teachers are rubbish if the schools are not built...NO
    Will it affect the childrens well being to learn...No
    If a school roof leaks...then that comes under normal matainance.
    So the man made a mistake, so get real if the money is not there to build new schools then like the rest of us we will have to wait till there is money in the pot. Anyway where was the money coming from under the previous Goverment, the endless deep pit with no bottom, as it didnt exist in the first place.

  • Comment number 9.

    They matter only if they are to be used to enhance the process of learning; a theme alien to the previous government under their absurd and now proven to be meaningless mantra of "education, education, education".

  • Comment number 10.

    The whole schools renewal programme has been flawed due to the PFI/PPP approach taken.

    By using this method every tranche of schools were designed by different architects instead of central government having six sets of plans drawn up. 3 sets for primary schools, small, medium and large and again 3 sets for secondary schools.

    The cost savings made by tendering in this manner could easily have paid for the schools that are now having to be cut.

    But when have you ever known a government to do things the sensible way?

  • Comment number 11.

    Its a difficult one...

    ... we live in perilous financial times and so there is a need to cut costs.

    Given that a lot of these schools are built through PFI schemes which fleece the taxpayer and line the pockets of business i'm glad that some of these schemes have been halted. I'd prefer better value for money contracts which don't tie the taxpayer down for up to 25yrs.

    However at the same time to what extent do we invest for the future? And are some of the schools/buildings being replaced in such a poor condition or overcrowded that they need replacing as soon as possible?

    A PFI school I use with a church group rents out its sports facilities and some of its rooms throughout the week regularly returning revenue.

    If the private sector can build and maintain these buildings and make profits over the life cycle of the school why can't a public body achieve the same?

  • Comment number 12.

    We do not have a shortage of schools, even if some of them are looking a little worse for wear. In this present climate, with the need to recoup missing billions of pounds in deficit lost by the Labour Party then yes it is necessary to cut back on what is at the end of the day a purely cosmetic program. So long as we can maintain or improve on the standard of teaching in our schools, then the building projects will have to wait for more affluent times.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yet money is going to be found to turn old dilapidated CLOSED ex-hospitals and other NON economic viable buildings into "FREE SCHOOLS"

    NOW HERES PLAIN FACTS:- Coincidence, or con???????

    BBC 08/07/10 - The coalition government's decision to axe the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme means 715 schools will see their rebuilding projects cancelled.

    BBC 18/06/10 - More than 700 groups are interested in starting a "free school" in England

  • Comment number 14.

    No sensible parent wants their child to be educated in a leaky old shack.
    OTOH no sensible parent wants their child to receive a bad education.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that if the state's going to educate my child that the state should provide a suitable building to teach in.

  • Comment number 15.

    There will always be some buildings that just have to be replaced, or at least repaired. However we do not need every child to be taught in brand new state of the art accomodation and we certainly don't have the money to pay for that!

  • Comment number 16.

    School buildings are working environments. Children shouldn't have to wear their coats, gloves and scarves in class during winter, is that not too much to ask?

  • Comment number 17.

    Do school building matter? They never did under Thatcher and they never will under this lot either! They are absolutely in their element and in their comfort zone being given free rein to cut, cut cut.

  • Comment number 18.

    I appreciate that you don't choose your school, however, from a government whose members overwhelmingly benefited for the excellent environments and facilities available via fee paying schools and whose own children overwhelmingly do the same, to then cancel basic improvements in state schools will look hypocritical.

    With over 60% of Tory MP's (including Ed Sec Micheal Gove) ,double the level under Mrs T and 40% of Lib Dems having attended Fee Paying Schools 20 of them the same private school (Eton 19 Tories 1 Lib Dem) this was always going to be a hard sell for the "we're all in this together" Government.

    Incidentally before Tory Fan Boys shout Labour MP's go to public school too the percentage is actually only 15% which while double the national average is I think we can all agree considerably lower.

    Any amount of apologising from Mr Gove who does seem actually a fundamentally nice chap will probably be treated with the disdain it so richly deserves.

  • Comment number 19.

    In reality they are both important. If the buildings are hazardous to health and wellbeing (dampness, asbestos etc.), then no amount of teaching is going to stop the students and teachers becoming ill.

    If there is no good teaching practice, it wouldn't matter if they were in a palace.

  • Comment number 20.

    If the state of the building has no impact on the performance of those who are expected to work there, then I would respectfully suggest the government and civil service sells its buildings and replaces them prefab huts and outside toilets.

    The fact is that our work environment impacts on our performance and our pride in our place of work. When pupils feel that the rest of society values them enough to invest in modern facilities, they feel pride in their school, pride in themselves for being there, and see a purpose in making an effort.

    My children go to a good school, but it angers me no end that other kids don't have the same opportunity. It is NOT okay to short-change our children simply because our bankers' grand-scale incompetence has been bailed out.

  • Comment number 21.

    School buildings have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of teaching within. A good teacher could teach in a field or a tent, although I'm sure they'd prefer not to!

    Buildings seem to be the least of the problems besetting the education service at the moment; I'd put the poor quality of teachers at the top of the list to be dealt with.

    Fancy buildings are very nice but good teachers are essential.

  • Comment number 22.

    Why don't we also cancel any repairs / renovation of the House Commons / Lords, switch off their heating in the winter (yes, this happens in some schools)... I think we would soon hear a lot of whingeing from MPs about how they need a good environment to do their job properly. Strange how that only applies to them? Gove reminds me of "Snatcher Thatcher" - when the country is in trouble, make sure you only hurt those who don't have a voice.

  • Comment number 23.

    New buildings are a waste of money. I was educated in the 60s & 70s attending private schools with very poor buildings : Prefab classrooms ; games huts ; Victorian science labs etc. None of this mattered because we had excellent teachers. I left school with three A grades at A level at a time when an A still meant something.

    Indeed "State of the Art" new buildings bring their own problems. Do schools , for example , have the funds to maintain them ?

  • Comment number 24.

    The buildings are important but NOT as important as the quality of the the teachers and the teaching material. ALL are in a poor state in the UK public sector. The emphasis should be placed more on the reform of the teaching profession than the quality of the buildings. This WILL show a bigger/better return on OUR money invested. If not, give the money to the PRIVATE sector which runs education establisments much better (both physically and teaching). Not many lefties there.

  • Comment number 25.

    School buildings do matter, certainly.

    However, we are in the most dire of financial circumstances. All parties very foolishly promised before the election to protect the huge NHS budget. I'm sure patients and staff are delighted. I'm equally sure staff, parents and pupils would like the eduction budget protected too. But, we have to make savings, massive savings, somewhere.

  • Comment number 26.

    As long as the school is clean, not too hot or cold, has enough desks and chairs etc what's the problem?

  • Comment number 27.

    So long as a building is weatherproof, has electric power points, enough large rooms, satisfactory sanitary facilities, and is warm and well lit in winter, then there's no real need for modernity or special features.
    Ritzy school buildings are becoming an expensive fad. Money should be spent first on teachers and teaching aids, then on competitive sports for the children to keep healthy and get an idea of what the real competitive world's like, and last of all on architecture and frills that make the Governors feel important.

  • Comment number 28.

    "Is the condition of a school building more important than the quality of teaching?"

    In some cases it can be, especially when you take things like air conditioning into account. Kids aren't going to be very well focused if they're freezing or roasting, even if you have a good teacher.

    Also, the quality of specialised classrooms such as computer labs, science labs, kitchens, metalwork rooms, etc are important.

    Class sizes are another obvious factor; a school with too few buildings will have larger class sizes, and therefore worse results.

    But, that's all pretty useless without good quality teachers, and pupils!

  • Comment number 29.

    I just hope that Ed Balls is even slightly magnanimous in accepting Michael Gove's apology I much prefer the slightly more grow-up type of exchanges we see between Mr. Cameron and Ms. Harmon to the adolescent bun-fights of the Blair and Brown administrations. However, I wouldn't mind if he does slightly fall about laughing at his oppo's misfortune!
    Our school had some really dilapidated portakabins where we spent the last two years of O-Level study (don't know what that is in "modern" years). They were absolutely freezing in winter and boiling hot in summer. Luckily though we were kids and could taker it!

  • Comment number 30.

    Obviously, this was started by someone who has not worked in Education.

    Have any of you had to work in a building that is not wind or water-tight?

    When it is either too hot in summer, when the sweat is trickling down your back or winter when the frost is on the inside of the windows, you are in an antedeluvian building passing off as a school.

    No-one cares, the HSE and Office and Shops Acts do not cover schools.
    You are told to open the windows in summero or put on another sweater in winter.

    This is said by Council Beaurocrats sitting in their nice air conditioned office, from which they do not stir.

  • Comment number 31.

    The whole country is now fully aware that the last government has left us with the worst debt crisis in our lives and we are all having to economise and 'make do and mend'.Schools,if they are well-lit,properly heated and in no way dangerous,will really have to think how lucky they are to be in that position,knuckle down,be as creative as possible with the decor and carry on regardless.It might be a good idea to get the children on board-no litter or graffiti at the risk of severe punishments and everybody make sure we never find ourselves in this position again.

  • Comment number 32.

    This is a contemptible perversion of logic on Gove's part. If the programme's too bureaucratic then any worthwhile politician would rightly insist on cutting back on the bureaucracy, NOT on the benefits that the programme itself should bring! It's like saying that, say, treating children with cancer involves too much paperwork, so we should therefore stop treating children with cancer! Change the system if it's inefficient - just don't think you can fool the public! ! Of course, this is an excuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So what's going to happen? I'll tell you: schools will fall into a state of appalling disrepair and at some point a child will be seriously injured or killed as a result of this, at which point the government will initiate a 'brand new' and 'urgent' maintenance programme for schools. As there'll only be one or two dead or injured children before this happens, it's no doubt been factored in as acceptable collateral risk. Who actually voted these baboons into office?! I certainly didn't.

  • Comment number 33.

    BSF projects that have been axed will come as a bit of a blow for the construction industry, which last year was on it's knees and will now be flat on it's back.

    Cannot understand why this decision was made when more focus should be given in reducing benefit payments. After all, our expenditure as a nation is 30%-35% on benefits yet only 7% on Education. Where is the logic?

    As a company, we have worked on a number of schools recently, all of which were loss makers, just showing that Michael Grove is at least correct in saying that bureaucracy is wasteful and expensive. It certainly isn't construction costs.

    Why not just cut bureaucracy then?. There are quite a few Schools i've seen that you wouldn't keep Pidgeon's in. If Cats were in the council would not doubt spend millions in re-housing the fluffy little things.

    But our Children? Nar stuff'em, why spend on them when you can spend on bureaucracy, foreign aid or providing nice, comfortably warm Sky-tv'd accommodation for re-housed Cats?.

    The whole thing is as stupid as my own moronic comments.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Is the condition of a school building more important than the quality of teaching?"

    No but they do have to be fit for it's purpose. I remember porta-cabins not vey nice but useable.

  • Comment number 35.

    This is a red herring: there has never been a correlation between School buildings & academic excellence, or the attainment of a good education. The age of the buildings would often imbue a sense of history & tradition, all on the positive side. After all, Shakespeare did not have the benefit of our flush lavatories or electricity.

    You miss the point entirely, there is a very straightforward correlation between resources,both in terms of facilities and staff student ratios and results.

    This is why the average public school with 3 times as much money to spend per pupil,and 3 times as many teachers to teach them tends to outperform state schools.

    While Fee Paying Schools may be based around an old building they will invariably have new facilities within these constructions and often will have new peripheral building providing top class resources.

    It also gives the lie yet again that we and (the overwhelmingly fee paying school educated and fee paying school using, for their own children), condems are "all in this together"

  • Comment number 36.

    6. At 12:20pm on 08 Jul 2010, Rossics wrote:

    So Gove thinks that this scheme was over bureaucratic and not value for money. You can bet your bottom dollar that the CON-DEM alliance won't replace it with anything thus condemning these state schools to deteriorating buildings and facilities. So much for improving the education of our children.


    Why should they?
    With what money?

    They dont have the imaginary currency the labour gov had, the condems have only real money. And all of it is borrowed!

  • Comment number 37.

    It is the quality of teaching that is of paramount importance. As long as abuilding is safe nad has an adequate number of classrooms etc. why rebuild it.

    Our local primary school has fitted carpets, quite why fitted carpets are necessary is beyond me.

    The money is NOT there.

  • Comment number 38.

    I don't work in the public sector but I do work in a lot of school buildings and they are, almost without exception, in a poor state of repair. I don't understand why we can't prioritise kids education. If we can't look out for the welfare of our kids what are we really worth as a country? People were more empassioned about world cup football than the state of our kids' schools. We wouldn't let our children live in those conditions!

  • Comment number 39.

    Of course modern, well-equipped buildings are beneficial, but we are told that we must all suffer a period of austerity to make back the losses incurred through the rank incompetence of bankers, governments and regulators (who seem not to be sharing in this austerity, athough that is a different issue).

    However, I and my generation who were educated in the 50s and 60s suffered conditions that are primitive compared to today and there is much evidence that we were better educated despite this.

    I spent my infant and primary education in prison-style blocks that were built early last century (and had very little in the way of heating). My senior school education was conducted in a converted (just) victorian house - no playing fields, a playground the size of a tennis court, no workshops and a chemistry lab smaller than my living room. This served 250 pupils.

    I have a professional qualification as a Chartered Accountant and my peers have become Professors, architects, doctors etc.

    So let's grit our teeth, buckle down, and stop the spending for a few years. We have no choice!

  • Comment number 40.

    The purpose of BSF was two-fold: firstly to rebuild schools that were dangerous, poor environments for children and staff and secondly (by rebuilding them) to create schools that help learning.

    How can a building help learning? teaching has changed: schools use more group work, collaborative project-working and ITC for learning. Modern schools have needs that go beyond sitting in rows. In this new context, buildings with space that could accommodate those changes were vital. Ask an architect to tell you how a building can be made functional as well as pretty. In fact just think about how your house is designed to meet your needs.

    Michael Gove wants us to return to Victorian teaching methods and it is for this reason that he doesn't value the purpose of these new buildings. That's why he's comfortable depriving children and staff of modern 21st century learning environments. It's why he's also happy to cut budgets for ITC in schools.

    His policies both for the classroom and school buildings will do immeasurable damage to British children's ability to progress and succeed in a rapidly changing world.

  • Comment number 41.

    I have been working on BSF for my local authority for the past year. It is overly bureaucratic but the whole point of the programme is to work closely with schools so we don't just dump old practices into shiny new buildings: the idea is we change the way we are teaching and learning to suit the needs of the 21st Century. Within the next 5 years everyone will have factual information at their fingertips: why do you need to learn facts when you can access them instantly? Young people need SKILLS not facts and Gove is living in the past when he talks about having a working knowledge of Dickens and learning by rote. Learning should be a lifelong process, school should spark a passion for learning as well as enable young people to become effective members of the 21st Century. BSF was a process - it was never supposed to be just about buildings, the buildings were just a catalyst for this transformation. And now I'm looking at redundancy - thanks Mr Gove!

  • Comment number 42.

    Absolutely its part of the learning environemnt as are good teachers.
    These days not only are children bigger so need more space but the technology used means classroom layouts need to be different and provision made for cabling etc.
    Then there's the schools still suffering from no maintenance during the last Conservative government.
    Still you wouldn't expect facts to get in the way of political dogma where a Conservative government is involved would you, especially when most of those effected don't have votes.

  • Comment number 43.

    Perhaps MPs should then move out to Portacabins on Parliament Green and we can see this theory re-enacted at the core of government.

    @Rays a laugh - I have taught in a school, in the winter, in the 70's, with no heating in sub zero temperatures where everyone was trying to learn - sorry - actually in practice it doesn't do most people any good trying to learn in those situations. Of course our society is far more civilised now and everyone would be sent home because it would contravene health and safety regulations.

    Just because conditions exist similar to those in the developing world doesn't mean we should replicate them here. If we are not prepared to build a world class education system but replace it with bring and buy franchises operating out of garden sheds then we deserve what we get in 4 years time.

    I personally think this is not the way to conduct an education policy. The money could easily be found from cutting Trident or taking the troops out of Afghanistan. I am sure there are many more ready alternate examples. People lack vision and committment to change - they'd rather have a piecemeal and unadventurous future - so be it - but I didn't vote for this version of my future.

    We are digging our own economic grave by such a sort-termism and education as education underpins our future prosperity I fear we are wrecking our future by condoning this.

  • Comment number 44.

    Of course it doesn't and shouldn't affect the teaching quality.

    What amazes me is that clips of so called run down schools have been shown on most of the media in a kind of "look, isn't this awful" way, one school head teacher showed a patch from a leaky roof.

    Doesn't maintenance come into all this.

    Don't these schools do basic maintenance anymore? if not, why not.

  • Comment number 45.

    I feel a 'no brainer' coming on. (Question above)

    So this budget deficit we're all so scared of.

    Was it to build schools? Was to replace some really old rundown buildings that should probably have been replaced 20 years ago but never happened somehow?

    Now we'll have less budget deficit, but our kids will suffer, that must make the people responsible for this government feel good, especially the ones who have just lost a school.

    Sorry little Johnny, the country are too short sighted due to the new administration to invest in the future, but don't worry, when the infrastructure collapses you'll have a huge tax bill and we'll all be six foot under. That extra £170 a year came in really handy.

    Enjoy your economic collapse, it's our legacy to you.

  • Comment number 46.

    I know a bit more about BSF than most here. The entire BSF program is actually a PFI inititive (or rather was) where private money would be used to design, equip and run the school. These would then be 'rented' back via tax payers money. All of the true costs of BSF were kept off books until the current govt came to office.
    Many BSF schools are now currently in place, although not as many as orgionally planned, and whilst some are excellent, some good there are still many which are poor. The poor area covers many angles including school\classroom design, IT provisioning and maintenance costs where 'hidden fees' are often used to overcharge for the most basic of operations such as installing network points at many times the cost of using an outside contractor.
    BSF Schools also racked up huge costs in architects, planning and consultancy fees, where each school would be designed from scratch, at great expense, and at times with little regard given to the actual teaching environment.
    It is good that BSF has finally had the severe look at that was desperately required, however the govt should back it up with an equally active school modernisation and maintenance program.

  • Comment number 47.

    My old school was built in 1867 and its still standing and in great condition, the new school over the road was built in 1984 and is damp dirty and falling apart, if schools had been built better in the last 40 years we would not have teachers and children working in terrible conditions. It does matter what sort of buliding we expect teachers to teach in and children to learn.

  • Comment number 48.

    Our local school is one of the building schemes scrapped by Michael Gove. It is a 1960s building and is no longer fit for purpose. Classrooms are too small to accommodate the number of students and narrow corridors hinder movement. Many of the windows in school can't be opened any more due to their poor condition.
    I rather expect like many schools, not much has been done in the last few years to improve the fabric of the buildings, as it was expected they would soon be replaced.
    So what now for schools like this? The Tories don't seem to have any ideas or I suspect really care.
    BSF was certainly not perfect and rightly deserves criticism for the money wasted on consultants and architects. However, it did at least offer to bring our schools into the 21st century with decent facilities.

  • Comment number 49.

    Watched Gove in parliament sneering and deriding the Labour party for taking a time to impliment the building improvements, perhaps if he had gone a little slower and not been so quick to critise he wouldn't have had to come back and apologise for messing things up so much. Looks as if he has incurred more expense by hurrying perhaps Labour weren't as stupid as he would like us to think

  • Comment number 50.

    A school having its new buildings cancelled sends a bad message, in my opinion.

    This is also going to have an effect of the UK construction industry, along with the other reduced funding that will be drip-fed to the press over the next year. It probably adds up to a lot of job losses in the private sector.

    Without some information about what works will be taking place to repair and renovate schools in place of this programme, I expect schools will continue to deteriorate over the next few years.

    I'm surprised the LibDems have swallowed this one.

  • Comment number 51.

    At 12:04pm on 08 Jul 2010, Neil Probert wrote:

    Says it all.

  • Comment number 52.

    My view and the general consensus on HYS so far appears to be that as long as the buildings are safe, clean and tidy then it shouldn't have a bearing on the pupils academic achievements. The only one thing there should not be any compremise on is the quality of teaching.

  • Comment number 53.

    School buildings DO matter when they're post war temporary pre-fabs which are freezing in the winter, like ovens in the summer & are still in use today. Here in the south west we have significantly less funding per pupil than the national average, which has meant in order to maintain a good standard of education the schools have had to prioritise teachers pay & text books above investment in the buildings. It's about time the central government funded each pupil at the same amount regardless of area. The south west has been underfunded for a long time & it shows in the appalling state of services & condition of rural school buildings.

  • Comment number 54.

    In order to fund his 'Free Schools' program, Gove had already said before the election, he would take money from the school refurbishment program.
    The State school system will be underfunded as tax-payers money is given to any group who wish to set up a 'Free School'.
    The intention is clear, parents will be faced with sending their child to a rundown state school or a bright new shiney 'Free School'. As registrations for these schools increase, Gove will announce the success of the 'Free School' policy.
    Interestingly an existing private school can apply for 'Free School' status and get it's running costs paid by the tax-payer.
    Cameron's Big Society education policy is to transfer responsibility for it the private sector.

  • Comment number 55.

    It isn't a question of 'do school buildings matter' but rather one of a flawed and poorly-designed attempt to rectify the fact that the basic needs of educational real estate had been neglected by successive governments. The need for buildings that are fit for purpose will not go away, even if mismanagement by government means that the money for flashy new buildings is no longer available.

    Moreover, it is also a question of yet again government renaging on agreements upon which schools, colleges and contractors had based plans in good faith, incurring costs... by all means rein in some of the more grandiose schemes but it is not their place to halt processes that are already in place.

    As a taxpayer, I'd prefer to see my money being used in measured improvement of school buildings than frittered away in the pursuit of political dogma. It's called responsible stewardship and neither this government nor the previous one seem to understand the obligations and responsibilities that they incur by asking for our money.

  • Comment number 56.

    Why doesn`t the govt fund the schools to educate their pupils in all aspects of renovating a school?, things like painting and decorating, brick laying, plastering, concreting, plumbing and so on are what are needed to modernise these schools, so rather then cancel the plans they can still go ahead and the pupils can gain vital after school skills by aiding in the rebuilds
    Ok insurance purposes they can`t do the major work but they can be taught the basics and most of the basics are good enough to do up some of these deprived schools
    Just an idea of course :)

  • Comment number 57.

    When did we start calling pupils "students". A pupil is someone at primary or secondary school, a student is someone at college or university.

  • Comment number 58.

    Who says that modern buildings are better? A recently built school near me was thrown up very quickly. It seems to be built of steel frame, plasterboard and wood.

    The varnish on the wood has faded already and looks rubbish. The school is on a former coal mine site too.

    The old brick school buildings had been there for probably a hundred years, the new one won't last that. Plus it may look like a "cool" bit of architecture now, but it will look awful very soon.

  • Comment number 59.

    It's a well known fact in the study of human behaviour that if you pay attention to and change the work environment for the better, or even just change the colour of the walls, then productivity increases. Paying no attention and letting the work place deteriorate until it would not pass any realistic "fit for human habitation" inspection is a recipe for disaster. Given the perceived reluctance of any of our youth to actually want to be educated anything that can be done to make them feel that they "want" to be in school must be a good thing.

  • Comment number 60.

    As with other moves of this new government, we are all (supposedly) in this together.

    Claiming that architecture is less important than the quality of teaching makes for an interesting soundbite (populist, yet vacuous), yet reminds one of the disater that was the last Conservative govt. Let us not forget that school buildings, across the land, were purposely allowed to deteriorate to conditions more in keeping with that of the 3rd world.

    The underlying philosophy was, and is, that public provision of most services should be paid for by individuals directly to their chosen provider, thus avoiding any state involvement. All this in the name of choice, only such choice was, and is, only ever realistically the province of the wealthy - be it earned (the few), or in the case of Cameron and Co, inherited (too many).

    This leads on effortlessly to Mr Gove's big idea - to allow a proliferation of small local schools to be set up by parents and/or disaffected teachers - all away from the (malign?) glare of local authorities who impose so much pointless assessment and bureacracy etc (cue much booing and hissing).

    As a corollary to this viewpoint, we are left with the conviction that only the very poor need to be covered by state provision. Now, as with the past, such provision would be very basic, unattractive, and ultimately stigmatising, thus ensuring few would willingly partake.

    To avoid the feeling of personal/parental failure, it would become one's bounden duty to take one's children out of state schools, whose (deliberate) impression would owe more to that of the Victorian workhouse than places of 21st century learning.

    Thus, those with privilege will continue to exploit their position and wealth to ensure their children receive the very best education, and so ensure dominannce of the key professions continues to remain in the hands of the few. The rest, the vast majority, will be left to to the local version of Dotheboys Hall, paying through the nose for a sub standard education from which the state has abdicated itself - the problems with education having been shifted from one of national relevance, to individual irrelevance. Who will you complain to then?

    Bang goes social mobility, and opportunities for individuals to claw their way up the, ultimately government created, economic caste system.

    PS - When will Mr Gove look at the farce that results from pulic schools being classified as charities. Its sole purpose is to reduce the level of fees paid by - invariably - wealthy parents - whilst simultaneously reducing the level of income to the exchequer.

    "We are all equal, only some are more equal than others."

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm not sure with the issue of school buildings and academic excellence is a red herring or not, but from my own experience working in a office right next to a busy motorway I can tell you that a better choice of location would have been more conducive towards my own productivity.

  • Comment number 62.

    All that's required is a room which is weatherproof and a comfortable temperature; everything else is cosmetic.

  • Comment number 63.

    The environment your work in does matter it sets the tone for how people persive the importance of the activity taking place and how the the authorities controlling the space look upon the users. The building does not have to be state of the art or win architectural compititions, this is were economies to the current programme could be made. However buildings do have to be void of any significant defects and in a good state of repair. Allowing for the physical ware and tear school buildings take during their working life the maintenance bill will be high and a simple straight cut of the budget is only deferring the problem until another year

  • Comment number 64.

    I agree with Post 5. europhile.
    When I attended school in the 1950s the school buildings were Victorian and very basic. There were about 50 of us to a class and the toilets were outside.
    Nevertheless, all the teachers were excellent. Discipline was strict; we all knew what was expected of us. If we made a mistake in a lesson more than twice, we were made to stand on a chair and repeat the correct version until we got it right. Furthermore, if we even thought about transgressing the school rules, we knew exactly which punishment awaited us.
    Provided the buildings themselves are safe, the quality of teaching has very little to do with the quality of the buildings.

  • Comment number 65.

    Anarcho-libertarian wrote:
    New buildings are a waste of money. I was educated in the 60s & 70s attending private schools with very poor buildings : Prefab classrooms ; games huts ; Victorian science labs etc. None of this mattered because we had excellent teachers. I left school with three A grades at A level at a time when an A still meant something.

    Prefab classrooms ?

    Luxury that was !

    When I was a lad we lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt.

    We'd then get up three hours before we went to bed, walk six mile t’ school over Bramble covered hills (mostly in pouring rain) where we then got beaten by t’ schoolmaster for having dirty shoes.
    We'd then spend all day with 65 of us crammed into cardboard box wi’ outside toilets and no electricity and we had to share a book between fifteen of us and it never stopped us from getting A-Levels !

    But you try telling that to kids today and they just don't believe you...

  • Comment number 66.

    "After all, Shakespeare did not have the benefit of our flush lavatories or electricity."

    Shakespeare wouldn't have passed GCSE English though; his spelling was atrocious.

  • Comment number 67.

    Of course buildings matter. A school building must be safe and comfortable .

  • Comment number 68.

    'Do school buildings matter'? is the HYS question.

    Of course they do, for many and varied reasons not least because:

    1) Safe removal of asbestos from pre/post-1970 school buildings.
    2) More energy efficient and insulated school buildings.
    3) Local pride in the school the children attend.
    4) To defy the lie by ConDem coalition that education matters?

    It makes our family so angry that this government wants to transport our children and educators back to the 1980s? If Michael Gove wants to cut spending on school building and refurbishment - perhaps he might take the time to negotiate with the contractors on price rather than slashing without respect for those who rely on state education, unlike his privately educated chums?

    No, MY comment is not about class, but perhaps a 'reflection' of our new government across the board? Perhaps the LIBDEMS have been lazy and should raise their heads and consider the agenda and ideology of ALL Ministers currently running, and responsible for the 'new' Department of 'Education'?

    Back off Department of Education, which includes a very respected female Liberal Democrat? The Liberal Democrats are failing in Department of Educations thus far - just stop it and get involved to protect schools and the people you were elected to represent? grrrr.

  • Comment number 69.

    The bottom line is as a country "WE HAVE NO MONEY" because Labour borrowed and blew it all.
    Now the "Con/dems" have to pick up the pieces.
    We all knew it had to happen so why are we so upsett about it.

  • Comment number 70.

    Kraft » Cadbury » Camelot
    • Account for the change to twenty percent value added tax in project management and procurements.
    • Account for Security and Surveillance, Human Capital Management, Utilities, Furniture and Interior Repairs across 55 years, say.
    • Write 95,000 words on equality, gender, religion and curriculum in your school.
    • Write 41,000 words on detailed family cooperation outside your school frameworks.
    • Write 33,000 on Sport vs Music and other alternative non core subjects.
    • Write 33,000 on Literacy vs Numeracy at your school.
    • Write 25-35,0000 words on governance options at your school.
    • Write 20,000 words on ICT technologies for example Cisco and iLife.
    • Write 10,000 words on Health and Safety in your school including the responsibilities and accountabilities of non-payroll adults and staff on contracts.
    • Write 5,000 words about formative and summative dysfunctional discipline, social care and absconce.
    • Write 1000 words on your school experiences both good, bad and neutral.
    • Submit any architect plans under the regulations of EU


    Sent from my iPhone, Xda II

  • Comment number 71.

    The golden age of building schools and NHS hospitals has well and truly passed. The Lib-Dems should be ashamed of themselves for sacrificing their principles to share power with Cameron's band of rogues.

  • Comment number 72.

    "Is the condition of a school building more important than the quality of teaching?"

    I remember there being a coal-burning stove in our primary school classrooms in the 50's. We had to huddle around them on really cold days. The (outside)toilets always froze up on cold nights. During that period, in 2 particular years, only one pupil failed the 11+!

  • Comment number 73.

    Of course the school buildings are important, that is why most of our best Universities are very old. TLC is what matters.

  • Comment number 74.

    Do school buildings matter?

    There is ONE realistic way of measuring this.

    REMOVE a few dozen tiles from the roofs of Houses of Parliament, pull down a few ceilings and leave bits hanging, impregnate walls with damp and mould, remove heating and put in a few low capacity electric heaters, knock down the toilets and provide a few tempory portaloos.
    I am sure that the members in the house wouldnt even notice the difference.

    Britain is just so TOTALLY decent that NEVER in a MILLION years would children be found to be taught in squalor while the governing establishment over decade upon decade spends money on moats and 2nd houses and wide screen tvs and 2 jags or anything else of questionable morality.

    The UK has a government of totalitarian endemic decency, they would NEVER accept a lift on a train made out of gravy, especially while carrying 20 loaves of white crispy bloomers, which would enevitably de-rail the train resulting in having to jump trains and accept peerages on the way.

    No, of course school buildings do not matter, political wet wipes are far more important, afterall, who wants to see a gravy dribbling MP in public.

  • Comment number 75.

    after 13 years in power Labour hadn't repaired more than half the buildings neglected by the Tories when in power. That's because aged repairs always undermine what's left and the damage spreads. Some buildings were so profoundly damaged by 1997 that only replacement was an option. Buildings had to be closed during bad weather because of dangers from falling ice/ roof tiles, collapsing window frames, rotten and sagging floors and buildings built as a stop-gap still doing service after more than 30 years. Some school buildings still had outside toilets- something parents anxious for their children's safety could not countenance. But the real reason for cuts by the Tories and their collaborators is that their so-called 'free schools' policy will cost a fortune. Schools for the well off to be controlled by the well off and their business friends will leech money out of the state system leaving 700 schools in conditions a developing country would be ashamed of! This 'government' could prove even more divisive and vicious than the Thatcher Government. It has undertaken more economic damage and damage to the children's futures in 2 months than the previous Tory administration managed in 18 years. And to cap it all, another of Cameron's Bullingdon Club bullyboys is being put in charge.

  • Comment number 76.

    Interesting comments about it was ok in my day with the outside loo's and cold classroom and yes we used sand kids down the pit and up chimneys BUT we don't know.

    Its probably not the most important aspect of education but I'm sure that a better working environment has some impact and teaching has changed from just using the blackboard.

    So it's no excuse to have poorly maintain buildings which must COST more to run than if they where new!! Long terms costs savings not short term objectives.

  • Comment number 77.

    36. At 12:56pm on 08 Jul 2010, in_the_uk wrote:
    6. At 12:20pm on 08 Jul 2010, Rossics wrote:
    So Gove thinks that this scheme was over bureaucratic and not value for money. You can bet your bottom dollar that the CON-DEM alliance won't replace it with anything thus condemning these state schools to deteriorating buildings and facilities. So much for improving the education of our children.
    Why should they?
    With what money?
    They dont have the imaginary currency the labour gov had, the condems have only real money. And all of it is borrowed!
    Why should they? Because common sense tells you that the longer you put off maintenance and renewal the bigger the eventual bill becomes.
    With what money? Taxpayer's money paid in by the vast majority whose children attend State schools. For those of us not totally blinkered by Coalition propaganda about 80% of what the government spends is raised in this way. Only the remaining 20% is, at present, borrowed.
    Is it unreasonable for the majority to expect some of their taxes to go towards the education service that serves most of them?

  • Comment number 78.

    If you vote Conservative you will no doubt say that school buildings aren't important, but you will be far more likely to send your kids to a well-funded private school with high quality buildings, or will select the best state school locally and avoid sending your kids to schools with poorer facilities such as no science labs, computer department or other specialist buildings. Kids learn best when motivated, and even a good teacher will get better results from kids in a good environment than from those in a poor environment.

    As for the argument "I passed the 11-plus, so kids don't need decent buildings" you're missing something. Kids don't live in the 1960s and need different life skills to us. I passed the 11-plus too but my 2 daughters both have a higher standard of knowledge than I did at the same age. Life shouldn't be about who's best, but what's best. It shouldn't be about "We should be the same!" it should be about "How can we be better?" And it shouldn't be about they were 100% wrong because we are 100% right (but opposite in every way).

  • Comment number 79.

    In Africa the children are educated in Mud huts and they suffer no ill effects.
    The difference they value an education and consider it a privelage.

  • Comment number 80.

    I suppose old dilapidated school buildings with attrocious heating whereby children have to wrap up in coats to keep warm in winter could actually be used as an educational tool.

    Afterall, preparation for old age should be started at a young age!!!!!

  • Comment number 81.

    Gove is cutting the refurbishment program because he says there is no money for it. Yet he is to spend tax-payers money on 'Free Schools'. He is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
    As the fabric of State schools decline over the next 5 years, the coalition should reap their reward at the ballot box.

  • Comment number 82.

    I was taught in the late 70s and through the 80s. All three schools I was taught in were 50s/60s built and were considered the best in the town. The infant and junior schools I attend still stand today and are the best in town, the buildings aside from a new gym are unaltered since I left in 1983. Strangely the comprehensive I attended has been fundamentally rebuilt since my leaving in 1988, even more curious then that it has slipped down the rankings during that time. There is my small piece of anecdotal evidence that teachers and parents matter far more than the building you are taught in. My 'austere' looking school did me ok educationally, A levels, undergraduate and post graduate degrees later I think I was well served. I don't think it's as large a problem as some on here (presumably most pre-maddened by the Tory-Liberal government anyway) seem to think, certainly not as large as the complete lack of discipline in many schools.

  • Comment number 83.

    27. At 12:50pm on 08 Jul 2010, deanarabin wrote:

    So long as a building is weatherproof, has electric power points, enough large rooms, satisfactory sanitary facilities, and is warm and well lit in winter, then there's no real need for modernity or special features.


    This would seem ideal in theory but does not actually work in practice.

    I have worked in the school buildings programme for over 5 years and I can tell you that I have been shocked at the state most of schools are now in. I left school in 1989 and since then, the government has not provided sufficient funding to maintain these schools properly, leading to many of them becoming semi-delelict. Sure, we had "huts" in the 80s' and they were fine for us, but these were built in the 1950's and 60's as temporary accommodation and many are still being taught in the same "temporary" huts some 60 years later. Is this good enough for our children?

    The schools I see every week are in a shocking state. Indeed, many are dangerous (some with concrete panels falling off, structural defects, issues of fire safety etc.) Most are riddled with asbestos and should have been re-wired years ago. Add to this all the new regulations coming into force over the last 30 years - DDA compliance, class sizes, minimum space standards etc and you get the picture.

    The sad thing is that Labour wasted all the money on PFI which is just an expensive cash cow for private sector companies and the Tories are now about to throw public money at "Free-Schools", in effect, privatisation of our children's education.

    We MUST spend money re-building out of date schools but it has to be done wisely, especially in the current climate. No PFI or "Free Schools" please, just give the Local Authorities the money and tell them to spend it wisely, on good quality, affordable schools.

    I am passionate that this has to be done. If I am ever in doubt, I just have to think back to a school I visited a few years ago where the kids were all sitting in the assembly hall doing their exams wrapped up in jackets, with buckets scattered around their desks to catch the rain drips.

    We must continue with the school building programme!

  • Comment number 84.

    Refer to post #2 @ 12:15pm on 08 July - 'ian cheese'.

    Setting aside the possibility or assumption of your comment being cryptic or ironic - let's hope that others will not seriously emulate the same views in all sincerity?

    Nevertheless, the new Department of Education has a new website with ALL ministers shown, AND their responsibilities too? Perhaps other new government departments should follow a similar model to show the public who is running their lives at their expense?

  • Comment number 85.

    Surely the dismal state of school buildings indicates how little importance the adult world really places on the education and well-being of the next generation. I visit many inner city schools in relation to my job in education and it never ceases to amaze me that teachers and pupils go about their daily business in antiquated (sometimes freezing/boiling, cramped, unhygenic, or plainly decrepit) premises that would be totally unacceptable if it was any other working environment. This gives a poor message to children regarding the value we place on their education.

  • Comment number 86.

    Ava78 wrote:
    What amazes me is that clips of so called run down schools have been shown on most of the media in a kind of "look, isn't this awful" way, one school head teacher showed a patch from a leaky roof.

    Doesn't maintenance come into all this.

    Don't these schools do basic maintenance anymore? if not, why not.

    School maintenance started to be privatised in the 1980s.
    Instead of schools having their own janitor on-site to manage day-to-day repairs the school would have to put in a request with the local education authority who would then put the request through to the contractor who would then inform you that the repairs would not be getting done as they either had too much work to do this term or that the budget had already been spent and therefore you'd have to wait until next year when they got their next payment.

    The damage would then get worse due to the delay and you'd end up needing a new roof instead of some repairs but that would come under the rebuilding budget, not the maintenance budget and therefore the contractor wouldn't be able to do the work and the school would have to apply to the government for funding for the building work.
    This would obviously take months to go through as you'd need surveys done by the LEA, local council, civil engineers et al as well as a financial review to ensure it was a cost effective solution.

    In short, the government would spend tens of thousands of pounds paying people to conduct reports to show that it wasn't cost effective to spend a few thousand pounds replacing the damaged roof. The building would then be sectioned off and certain parts of it declared unsafe to use, a lack of occupation would accelerate the decay which would eventually force the closure of the entire building and the schools relocation into temporary classrooms.

    And all because the government thought it was inefficient to have full time janitors working for every school.

  • Comment number 87.

    I know of two schools earmarked for demolition once replacements have been built, and in both cases there is nothing wrong with the original schools. I'm delighted these wasteful plans have been cancelled. Replacing school buildings will have little or no effect on our broken education system - the remedies lie elsewhere, and are more political than physical.

  • Comment number 88.

    Do I want new schools ... Yes
    Unfortunately we have to cut our cloth according to our coats.
    Millions are unemployed and not paying tax and tens of millions can not earn enough to pay tax, then we have the rich who get away with, thats right not paying tax.
    We have a economy that is so backward we can not even build a car and everything is bought abroad, more money pouring out daily.
    So unfortunate circumstances dictate that the piggy bank is empty.
    The good News is that foreign aid that has trebled over the last 15 years is ring fenced, so they will be giving your money away to other countries to build new schools abroad.
    Back home, well we come last.... AGAIN

  • Comment number 89.

    Not all of europhiles recollections were true (post number 5) otherwise he'd remember that the plural of facility is facilities and not facility's.

  • Comment number 90.

    anth wrote:
    Why doesn`t the govt fund the schools to educate their pupils in all aspects of renovating a school?, things like painting and decorating, brick laying, plastering, concreting, plumbing and so on are what are needed to modernise these schools, so rather then cancel the plans they can still go ahead and the pupils can gain vital after school skills by aiding in the rebuilds
    Just an idea of course :)

    That's not just an idea, it's the best idea I've read on HYS in a very long time !

  • Comment number 91.

    UK is amongst the richest countries of the world - it is despicable to see dilapidated school buildings in Britain!! Cannot be justifiable.

  • Comment number 92.

    Of course buildings matter and we would all prefer to live and work in comfortable, beautiful surroundings but, just in case the message hasnt got through yet, this country's finances are up the proverbial creek.

    We simply cant afford to carry on spending as we were. We cant have everything we want. Choices have to be made. Spend it where it does most good - recruit a few more teachers - and improve the quality of existing ones through better training - rather than lavishing money on new buildings.

    Gordon Brown loved the big gesture. He loved to make big announcements about how he was spending billions of our money on schools, hospitals and the like. The harsh reality folks is we cant do it any more.

    Maybe if we all knuckle down and get our economy going we will be able to start spending again in a few years, but right now its all about keeping the baillifs from the door.

  • Comment number 93.

    I feel much more productive working in nice buildings with nicer surroundings. I complain about clean desk policies but find I work better when one is in place. A nice clean sharp looking school building definatly increases a students morale and personally I think it would have benfited me whilst been at school. Don't underestimate the small things.

  • Comment number 94.

    As with so many questions this one is misdirected. It is not an 'either or' question, they are interrelated. Just as with 'broken window syndrome' there is a connection between performance by pupils and facilities. Even the vaunted Private schools advertise not only teaching standards but also the standards of their facilities. Why should those attending Publicly funded schools be treated as second class.
    Sorry forgot; We have a regressive Tory led Government, committed to turning schools into profit making businesses.

  • Comment number 95.

    For all you labour lovers blaming the condems- why did labour not fix em? Why is it only a proposition for after the election?

  • Comment number 96.

    If I understand this correctly, old buildings need to be replaced, is that correct?

    So that would include the Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

    Really, there must be better things to spend money on than new buildings, which if they represent the best of todays's architecture will need replacing in another 40-50 years.

    Are you a parent or teacher worried about these cuts?

    Why would we worry about these cuts? It is the teaching that matters, let's get that right first.

    Should there be more focus on the quality of teaching rather than on school buildings?

    See above, this really is a "no-Brainer"

    Should financial cuts be made in education?


    If so, how would you make the cuts?

    Take a walk round any University and quantify the waste, I think that you could probably save billions by doing away with Directors of this and that; Vice Chancellors of the other; I cannot comprehend how many non-jobs there are.

    Rather like industry has to.

    And while I am on my soapbox - the Police can retire at 66 as well, that should help. To say that they cannot be expected to carry on beyond that is just unbelievable.

    Anyone can drive a desk beyond 55, or sit on the slip road reading the paper.

  • Comment number 97.

    I don't remember ever thinking about the condition of my own school, which (looking back) was probably pretty awful. When you're a child, there are far more important things to think about. I would guess that the only people who cared would be the teachers, who were busy smoking in their nice warm staff room, while we shivered outside.

  • Comment number 98.

    The answer to the question "is the quality of teaching more important than buildings" is a qualified "yes". A combination of firm discipline, creating a sense of 'belonging' to a community and high levels of expectation/support are vital, whatever the state of the buildings. A 'bad' school always blames its buildings rather than itself!

    When buildings are below a 'fitness for use' standard, rather than 'adequate' buildings damage a child's education. A poor state of buildings and equipment prevents good teachers from teaching at the best and demotivates pupils. State-of-the-art buildings/equipment and buildings definitely make a good school better, a better school 'the best' but do not make 'bad' schools better.

    A school is not just buildings or qualified teaching staff. The essence of good school is a partnership between pupils, parents, staff inspired by a shared "esprit de corp", a cohesive energy that creates self-confidence in pupils. Where goals are shared, the sky is the limit even when faced with socioeconomic factors such as poverty. Modern buildings matter, but good teaching is exponentially more important.

  • Comment number 99.

    'When I was at junior school in the late 50's we had 50 plus to a class, and in my form 48 passed the 11 plus. We had outside toilets, and no modern facility's, just good teachers. That really is all it takes.'

    I bet you lived in a shoe box in't middle of roooaaad too! Come on - we are in the 21st century and our children deserve somewhere clean and safe to learn. They also deserve excellent teachers. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    What's the betting that the young Cameron brood will not be attending a clapped out school board school from the 1800s.

    PS facilities is the plural of facility - it does not need an apostrophe - did they teach you that in the 50s?

  • Comment number 100.


    You're right, of course, good quality teaching is a far more important factor in education than pristine buildings. I applaud your school's results in the 11 plus but feel I should draw your attention to the correct use of the apostrophe for possession eg facilities, not facility's etc.


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