'Give our children the education they deserve': Leeds Council's plea to rebuild schools
The Government is being urged to fund rebuilds of two crumbling Leeds schools to stave off closures and give pupils the education “they deserve”, as the city faces a backlog of millions of pounds in repairs.
Wetherby High School and Royds High School need more than £40m between them for rebuilds due to the dilapidated condition of their current buildings, according to a letter sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson.
The letter, sent by Leeds City Council executive member for education Coun Jonathan Pryor, also claims the city’s schools are facing a repairs backlog of around £100m, and that the authority only gets a fraction of this for repairs each year.
He warned some schools may soon have to close on health and safety grounds and move into temporary units.
It follows an announcement from government this week of a 10-year plan to spend £1bn rebuilding 50 of the UK’s schools, although the identities of the schools are not yet known.
In his letter to Mr Williamson, Coun Pryor claimed there was an urgent need to replace walling and windows at Wetherby High School but, due to the age of the structure, the block would need to be completely rebuilt. He added the council could fund half of this, as it could sell some of the land the school sits on, but added the council would still needed £13m from government.
He added flood damage to Royds School in 2017 left the school with failing boilers and in need of extensive roof repairs, claiming that a rebuild was the only feasible option, and would cost the government a further £28 million.
Coun Pryor claimed he had written to the Department of Education several times over the past two years warning of the situation, but had merely received “warm words with no action”.
The letter added: “It is important to point out that when I first wrote you we had a third school also in urgent need of a rebuild – Benton Park School.
“We managed to find the £28 million that was needed to rebuild this school but we simply don’t have the resources to fund the remaining two.
“I would like to ask again for the funding for the rebuild of these two schools be made available as a matter of urgency.”
The government announced a new 10-year school rebuilding programme would start in 2020-21 with the first 50 projects, supported by over £1 billion in funding, adding further details of the programme would be set out at the next spending review.
Coun Pryor said the ambition was to get the two schools on this scheme, but warned work needed to take place sooner rather than later, as the buildings would be unlikely to last much longer.
“Our obvious aim is for these two schools to be on that list of 50, however I also note that the funding covers the next ten years – our school buildings can’t wait that long. Pupils in Leeds deserve to be taught in buildings that are fit for purpose.”
The letter added Leeds schools had a current repairs backlog of around £100m, but the city only received just over £6m-a-year to carry out the work.
He added: “We remain in a position of schools telling us they may need to close on health and safety grounds and move into modular units if repairs are not undertaken. This is not acceptable.
“I urge you to offer us more than understanding nods and promises to ‘look at’ the situation in Leeds.”
The Department for Education has been approached for a comment.
Richard Beecham , Local Democracy Reporting Service