'Scandal' of 600 schools with outside toilets

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The Independent Online
More than 600 primary schools still have outside toilets, according to a survey published yesterday. And for more than 750,000 children the classroom is a temporary hut - some over 40 years old and falling apart.

The findings come from a survey by local authorities pressing for more money to carry out essential repair and maintenance of school buildings.

A survey seven years ago by the Audit Commission said local education authorities needed pounds 2bn for school repairs. The current survey, carried out by the Association of County Councils and Association of Metropolitan Authorities, puts the figure at pounds 3.2bn.

Saxon Spence, Labour education chairwoman of the ACC, said the figures were a scandal. Government restrictions on LEA borrowing meant money for maintenance was declining. "It is not untypical for a large education authority with 500 schools to have a annual allocation of only pounds 200,000 for this type of work," the report said.

"We've been telling the Government year after year this problem is getting worse," Mrs Spence said. The Government told LEAs to sell buildings and land to raise money. But there was little left to sell. Ministers told them to look for money in revenue budgets and financial reserves, Mrs Spence said. But these were being squeezed by successive spending cuts. And finally, they were urged to look to private investment. But only a minority of projects - like dual-use sports facilities - offered any financial return.

As a result, children spent their days in inadequate, sometimes dangerous buildings. "Some of these temporary buildings are OK. But some are literally falling apart," Mrs Spence said.

"After the dreadful tragedy in Dunblane, schools are now being urged to have one entrance that can be easily controlled," said Mrs Spence. "When schools are increasingly made up of collections of temporary huts, that is practically impossible."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Don Foster described the situation as a disgrace.