County gets millions for school places and repairs

West Sussex County Council
West Sussex County Council

West Sussex has received £43.7m to help the authority create more pupil places at the county’s schools.

The money, which was allocated from a £2.4bn Department for Education fund, is for the financial year 2019/20.

In addition, the county has been given £10,4m to go towards the maintenance of its school buildings over the next year – with 50 schools expected to receive a share.

Neither sum will do anything to address the core funding issues which have left schools unable to balance their budgets.

The £43.7m is to be used to expand existing maintained schools, free schools or academies and to open new schools.

The amounts given to each authority were calculated by looking at the projected need for new places by September 2020.

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) in February predicted that, in West Sussex, the demand for primary school places have risen by 15.1-20 per cent by 2019/20. At secondary school level the increase was expected to be one of the highest in the country, with demand rising by more than 20 per cent by 2021/22.

A council spokesman said any allocation of money from the pot would be made subject to public consultation. She added: “At the moment we cannot confirm the number of places that will be created until we receive an announcement regarding the next wave of free school sponsors.”

While welcomed by the council, the £10.4m of repair and maintenance money will be nowhere near enough to bring the county’s school buildings up to scratch.

The same NAO report found West Sussex would have to pay between £500 and £999 per pupil to return the buildings to a “satisfactory condition”.

This would add up to between £53m and £107m.

The council spokesman said: “The funding is a welcome help towards the ongoing needs of schools.

“We have reviewed condition needs across the county and met with headteacher representatives to prioritise the funding on themes such as urgent health and safety and projects that could otherwise lead to the closure of a school eg boilers and electrics. After these priorities we try to meet urgent condition needs on themes such as roofs, windows, doors. We have identified some 50 schools that will receive an allocation of funds in 2017/18.”

The spokesman was unwilling to name the schools yet “as it can change for various reasons”.

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