Parents across the UK woke up to a horrifying news item on the morning of Wednesday, June 28, 2023.
Here it is (with a little additional political spin):
572 schools identified as being at possible risk of structural collapse.
One of the first things the Tories did when they took power in 2010 was to halt Labour's school maintenance & rebuilding programme. #r4today
Britain cannot afford the Tories. https://t.co/mFXFQ7N7C5
— Helen121 🕷💙⏹🇪🇺 (@Helen121) June 28, 2023
According to the BBC, it means 700,000 school pupils – a little more than six per cent of the total school population – could be in danger because of the dilapidated state into which the Tories have allowed schools to fall:
The National Audit Office (NAO) report says the Department for Education (DfE) has, since 2021, assessed the risk of injury or death from a school building collapse as “very likely and critical”.
The NAO, the UK’s independent public spending watchdog, said risks had not been addressed because of years of underfunding.
It said the deteriorating condition of school buildings was damaging pupil attainment and teacher retention.
Instead of acknowledging the failures, the Tory-run Department for Education has protested that it has been “significantly investing in transforming schools”. Into death traps?
An official said “nothing is more important” than safety at school – and the department had allocated more than £15bn since 2015 to keep schools safe and operational. But this number is meaningless on its own. How much is actually needed to make all schools safe?
Oh, here it is, a bit further down the BBC article: “The NAO said the DfE had recommended minimum funding of £5.3bn per year to mitigate the most serious risks of building failure, in its 2020 spending review, with £7bn per year being the “best-practice” level.
But the department was subsequently given an average of £3.1bn per year from the Treasury.
So the Tory government has provided less than half the cash necessary to restore these schools properly. Let’s remind us that, meanwhile, they let privately-run schools like Eton have charity status so they can raise as much money as they like from their rich benefactors and patrons, and don’t have any of the concerns facing state-run schools.
It’s mismanagement, malpractice, pure and simple.
Meanwhile, the horror stories are starting to come to light:
Steve Marsland, head teacher at Russell Scott Primary School, in Manchester, said his head is filled with “worry and panic” over keeping the 460 children at his school safe after raw sewage came up through the floors “on many occasions”.
“We had a plummet in attendance through sickness after the sewage floods, it is an absolute disgrace.
“It has been going on since 2015 and is down to poor building practice,” he told BBC Breakfast.
He said energy bills before his building was rebuilt were between £12,000 to £15,000 a year, but then went up to £45,000 a year, and was now nearly £9,000 a month because of rising energy costs.
So there are possibly no fewer than three government failings there: the sewage intrusion could be because the Tories allowed privatised water companies to dump sewage in the environment rather than forcing them to improve the system; the poor building work may be because the Tories employed the cheapest contractor rather than the best; and the high energy costs are at least partly because of profiteering by the privatised energy firms.
Other schools face dangers caused by the presence of asbestos. Asbestos! In the UK, in the 21st century!
No doubt the grisly details run on and on, and vary from school to school.
But here’s the million-pound question:
Is your child’s school among those that are falling apart, with no hope of proper investment from Rishi Sunak’s penny-pinchers?*
The saddest part is that this is symptomatic of the situation in the UK as a whole, under Tory rule.
And despite the report, nothing is likely to change, even if your children die. Remember the Grenfell Tower tragedy?
It was a tower block that had been covered with highly-flammable cladding by order of landlords at the Tory-run local authority. This cladding caught fire, the tower became an inferno and 72 people died.
To date, hardly anything has been done to remove similar cladding from other buildings and prevent another such tragedy from happening – even after another building with similar cladding caught fire and was destroyed (with no fatalities that time, luckily).
And it’s not just the current Conservative government that has caused such problems.
Remember when Tony Blair’s New Labour took over from the Tories in 1997 and found out that NHS hospitals were falling apart?
Blair’s solution was the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) – a mechanism bringing in investment from private sources, with the disadvantage that the projects created with that money revert to private ownership after a limited time.
PFI has attracted a huge amount of criticism and it seems unlikely that such an undertaking would be carried out again by a future Labour government.
So the question must be asked: if the Tories won’t help, and Labour can’t, how can this nightmare be ended?
*What are they doing with our money? Taxation is at its highest level since World War II or thenabouts, meaning the amount of public money being created every year must be enormous. Where is it going?
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