Pre-Budget Statement: Education: Extra pounds 50m given to renovate crumbling school buildings

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The Independent Online
FIFTEEN THOUSAND schools will be given cash to improve or replace crumbling buildings by 2002, the Chancellor promised. Most of the money for schools and universities has already been announced as part of the spending review. But an extra pounds 50m will go for new buildings and repairs under the New Deal, and Mr Brown gave schools permission to use a further pounds 100m of private money on building through the Private Finance Initiative.

About 5,000 schools have already received New Deal money and Mr Brown said the number to be modernised would have trebled by 2002. He also announced more entrepreneurship lessons for children and computer training for adults. Up to 50,000 adults will get basic computer training to improve their chances of a job, at a cost of pounds 25m.

A further pounds 10m will go to encouraging children to set up businesses, learn how to manage money, improve work experience and set up partner- ships between schools and business. There will be 10,000 extra childcare places in further education colleges to encourage single parents to continue their education.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, welcomed the additional expenditure on school buildings, but warned it was "inadequate to put right the deterioration of the last 20 years". He said the Government's efforts to promote entrepreneurship in schools were simply "a repeat of the same message people like Keith Joseph were giving under the Conservatives".

He added: "Headteachers are snowed under by initiatives. The work they face in the year 2000 is so large they are not going to spend any time thinking about entrepreneurship."

David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, said the Government was committed to making IT courses accessible. "Vouchers will be made available that can be used in the new network of local learning centres where people will be able to gain hands-on experience."

Judith Norrington, curriculum director of the Association of Colleges, said: "We strongly welcome this wonderful news [about childcare places]."

The Chancellor repeated the Prime Minister's promise that a majority of school-leavers would receive higher education.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice- Chancellors, said: "It will be necessary to see further substantial investment in higher education in the March budget and in the next spending review if universities are to maintain a high quality of education for growing numbers of students."

Judith Judd and Ben Russell