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In only four years, one hundred thousand more school pupils will be benefiting from a 21st Century education delivered in cutting edge schools.
That is the pledge by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, who has announced the number of pupils being educated in crumbling schools will be cut by over a third in the lifetime of this parliament. The number of schools in Condition C (poor) & D (bad) in 2007 was almost 1,000, covering around 260,000 young people.
Ms Hyslop, who this evening will be formally opening the new Linwood High School, welcomed Renfrewshire's commitment to investing a further £53 million in their schools in the future and stressed that Scotland's school building programme is continuing apace with 250 schools expected to be delivered during the life of this Parliament.
And she announced there will be increased momentum behind the improvements following the setting up of a joint Scottish Government/COSLA working group in response to the Audit Scotland report 'Improving the School Estate' which was published earlier this year. The new joint working group will consider how the actions recommended in the report should be taken forward and how Scotland's school estate will continue to be improved in years to come for future generations.
"While the report highlights that progress has been made in improving the school estate, it also brings in to focus that this Government has inherited an estate which is not yet in good enough shape.
"We are committed to lifting 100,000 school pupils, by 2011, out of tired and crumbling school buildings and classrooms and providing them with cutting-edge accommodation and facilities in which to continue their 21st century education.
"We need to focus on how best school buildings and grounds can inspire and support the educational activity and experience of pupils, staff and the wider community which use them, in order to ensure Scotland has a school estate fit for the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.
"It is clear though that we need a longer-term, targeted strategy for the school estate beyond the lifetime of this Parliament, one which is properly costed and carefully planned and this needs to be created along with COSLA and local authorities within the context of the historic Concordat."
The Audit Scotland report made a number of recommendations, all of which the Scottish Government and COSLA have accepted. Discussions regarding future school estate policy, funding and delivery have already commenced, with the intention of publishing a new School Estate Strategy for the longer-term by spring 2009.
The joint Government and COSLA working group, which also includes representatives from SOLACE, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and ADES, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, is to develop the new Strategy for a school estate which is tailored to meet the needs of pupils, teachers and communities, in full support of the Curriculum for Excellence.
Ms Hyslop said:
"There's more than £2 billion of committed investment in Scotland's schools at the moment.
"We've honoured our commitment to continue to improve the school estate. This Government has already signed off seven major local authority building projects since May 2007 and another four are in the pipeline - combined these have a capital value of around £1 billion, financially supported by decisions of the SNP Government.
"We have also substantially increased the capital resources for authorities. Almost £3 billion - an increase of £115 million in each of the three years of the spending review period - will be available over three years to secure investment in infrastructure, including schools.
"This is helping many councils to make schools their investment priority, as demonstrated by over £1 billion of capital investment committed to school building projects over the next five years highlighted in the Infrastructure Investment Plan. These are only the large scale "over £5 million" projects. There's also a great deal of smaller scale work going on to the benefit of many other schools across Scotland.
"We expect 250 schools to be built, funded or under construction through various funding mechanisms during the life of this parliament.
"The next steps are to finalise our longer-term strategy to ensure a modern, quality learning environment for Scotland's pupils and to develop the role of the new Scottish Futures Trust whose establishment was announced yesterday."
"Working with local government, we will ensure schools will be learning environments which will enable the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence, providing opportunities for our young people to thrive during their school years."
Key recommendations from the Audit Scotland Report include:
- The Scottish Government and Councils should review the School Estate Strategy and set specific measurable and meaningful targets to ensure that the aims of the strategy are clearly expressed and progress can be properly assessed.
- The Scottish Government should identify a financial strategy for achieving the aims of the School Estate Strategy
- Councils should use Scottish Government guidance to make sure that the future school design strikes a good balance for the comfort of everyone who uses the building
- Environment sustainability should be a key element of school design and not an added extra
- The Scottish Government and councils should do more to identify and share good and bad practice in school design and estate management.
- Planning for future changes in school pupil numbers is essential.
- Councils should seek to transfer learning from experiences on school estate management to improve general asset management across their organisations as appropriate.