The wait goes on for work to start on crumbling schools

STAFF and pupils at 12 crumbling North-East schools must wait many more months to learn when rebuilding work will finally start.

The schools – including some in County Durham, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar and Cleveland, Sunderland and Gateshead - are all described as a “priority” by the Government.

Exactly one year ago, ministers pledged that a private finance initiative (PFI) scheme would be launched to rebuild or revamp them “within the next year”.

However, a shortlist of bidders was announced only last month - and no date is set for announcing the winner of the £94m contest, or for the work to get underway.

Treasury sources say the procurement process is moving ahead only very slowly and that it could be the end of the year before the picture is clear.

The department for education (Dfe) had suggested the “batch” would go to market last summer. Across England, work has started on just 29 of 261 “priority” schools.

Now a new £2bn scheme, to start next year, will see rundown schools rebuilt with public cash – abandoning the private finance model, blamed for the slow progress.

Tristram Hunt MP, Labour’s education spokesman, accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of diverting limited funds to his “free school vanity project”.

He said: “His Priority School Building Programme is decidedly not a priority - limping along at a staggeringly slow pace.”

And Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Hundreds of thousands of children are still in dilapidated schools with leaking roofs, draughty or baking rooms.”

But a Dfe spokeswoman insisted there was no delay, saying: “This is usual for any procurement programme. This one is running faster than many others.”

The 12 schools include Seaham School of Technology, in County Durham, Mandale Mill Primary School, in Stockton-on-Tees, and Laurence Jackson School, in Redcar and Cleveland.

Three schools are in Sunderland borough; Hylton Castle Primary, Shiney Row Primary and Hetton Secondary School, in Houghton le Spring.

Last year, Hetton’s head teacher, Phil Keay, revealed the misery for his staff and pupils – after an original completion date of 2015 was abandoned.

Drainpipes had fallen from buildings, classrooms had to be shut off when asbestos-laden tiles move on windy days and broken heaters left pupils shivering.

Three schools are in Gateshead - Front Street Community Primary, Lingey House Primary and Roman Road Primary – and four are in North Tyneside and Northumberland.

The shortlisted firms to build the entire ‘batch’ are BAM Construction Ltd, Morgan Sindall and Sir Robert McAlpine Ministers have vowed that all 261 “priority” schools will be rebuilt by 2017 - a list that also includes St Joseph's RC Primary, in Coundon, County Durham, Charles Thorp, in Gateshead, Carr Infants, York, and Lord Deramore’s Primary, also in York.

Details of the new £2bn taxpayer-funded project will “follow shortly”, working from a national survey of the condition of all schools, due in the autumn.

The “priority” schools where work has started include Durham Trinity School and Sports College, Ian Ramsey C of E Aided Comprehensive School, in Stockton-on-Tees and King James I Academy Bishop Auckland.

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