Schools minister defends rebuilding programme

School Reporter Khadija from Copland School in Wembley, confronts David Cameron about the poor governing of her school.

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Schools Minister David Laws has defended the government's school rebuilding programme in response to serious concerns raised by a School Reporter.

Year 8 student Khadija of Copland School in Wembley challenged Prime Minister David Cameron a year ago about the dilapidated state of her school, and was told that Copland had been put on the priority school building programme.

But with no date set for the start of the project, Khadija took BBC Radio 4's World at One programme on a tour of the school to highlight the problems, before presenter Martha Kearney quizzed Mr Laws on Thursday.

"It was always a five-year programme, and we've tried to prioritise within that category those schools which are in most urgent need and do those first," Mr Laws said.

Start Quote

It can be dangerous at times”

End Quote Copland School pupil Khadija

"All of these 261 schools (on the priority programme) are big priorities and actually what is astounding is something like two-thirds of these schools were not even on the last government's list."

Copland head teacher Graeme Plunkett told World at One that the school had been finalising its application for the previous government's Building Schools for the Future programme when the election of 2011 put paid to that.

"We were very excited to put on the (coalition government's) priority school building programme but we were expecting an imminent development and I'm now beginning to wonder what priority means," he said.

"We've been told that the first discussion won't take place until the third financial quarter of 2014 and the building won't be up until about 2017."

That will be too late for Khadija, who showed World at One exposed wires on ceilings, rat-traps in the library and even a broken window that had been covered by some cardboard.

View inside Copland School in Wembley Khadija showed World at One that parts of her school have fallen into disrepair

"It can be dangerous at times," Khadija said.

Mr Laws said about £26m would eventually be spent on rebuilding Copland School, but the timeframe was dictated by the need to be cost efficient.

"Of course I can understand why people are so keen to get these buildings up as soon as possible - and I am as well - and if there's anything I can do to accelerate the timetable for this school and all of them among the 261, I will do exactly that," he said.

"But we will be going to this (Copland) school next year, engaging in a serious way and drawing up detailed plans. In these times of austerity, to get the best value for money and the largest number of schools being redone, we are batching together schools in particular areas so we can get contractors who will agree to rebuild a whole series of schools.

"As a consequence, the rebuild cost of these schools will be 30% cheaper per school than it would have been under the last government's programme - and that's really important."

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