Blunkett to unveil £8bn plan for school buildings

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Crumbling and dilapidated schools are to be refurbished or knocked down and rebuilt as part of an £8bn investment programme to be announced today by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

Crumbling and dilapidated schools are to be refurbished or knocked down and rebuilt as part of an £8bn investment programme to be announced today by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

In his keynote speech to the conference, Mr Blunkett will reveal the "biggest capital investment programme in schools for a generation", designed to "transform or rebuild" 600 schools in England and Wales.

Thousands of others will receive grants to repair or update classrooms, playgrounds and gymnasiums.

But the Government risks angering many local education authorities by bypassing them and giving refurbishment grants directly to many schools. Every school will receive some money directly to fix crumbling classrooms or redecorate. "There will be an element that will be directly given to schools," said a senior Whitehall source.

"This is going to be a huge capital investment programme. The purpose is really to look at the priorities for schools. If we are going to start refurbishing schools, part of the priority is to ensure the new classrooms are in a rather better repair."

The Government will draw up a list of schools destined for demolition, in consultation with local authorities, teachers and governors. They are expected to be built on the sites of existing schools. The rebuilding and refurbishment programme will run from next year until 2004.

Designers will not only repair and rebuild classrooms but will focus on design to ensure children can work in an encouraging atmosphere. Some schools will be stripped and refurbished by designers to make them bright and positive for children.

The initiative is likely to be welcomed by headteachers who have long been calling for money to do up schools that have fallen into disrepair.

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