Further Education Funding
I believe that every young person should have access to an excellent education and further education colleges play a vital role in the education system. The last Spending Review included measures to protect the base rate of funding for 16 to 19 year olds until 2020. However I am aware of the concerns that have been raised about funding.
This is why I recently signed a cross party letter to the Prime Minister calling for her to address the gap in funding between further education and the other education sectors.
I am concerned about plans for faith schools where the majority of funding is from the state, but the schools are allowed to impose 100% faith selection. Even though I am not a Catholic both my daughters attended a Catholic primary school – which had an interesting and good mix of children of all faiths and (like me) no faith.
Asbestos in Schools
There have been a number of written questions submitted to the Minister for Schools regarding asbestos in schools in recent weeks, I include these below. I hope that the Department of Education will continue its work to remove asbestos from all schools and provide schools with the vital funding they need to do this.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the viability of removing all asbestos from schools.
The Department takes the safety of pupils, staff and visitors to schools very seriously. The decision to remove asbestos from schools is made on a case by case basis.
Advice from the Health and Safety Executive is that if asbestos is unlikely to be damaged or disturbed, then it is best managed in situ. The Department is also clear that when asbestos cannot be managed effectively in situ, it should be removed.
Since 2015, the Department has allocated £6 billion to those responsible for school buildings, for essential maintenance and improvements, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when it is the safest course of action to do so.
In addition, our Priority School Building Programme is rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition in over 500 schools across the country. Asbestos was a factor in selecting buildings for the programme.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the level of asbestos in schools; and if he will make a statement.
The Department started to collect data on asbestos management in schools in 2016. All state-funded schools in England were invited to participate in the voluntary data collection and 25% responded. In February 2017, the findings were published in a report on GOV.UK. Of those taking part, 83% reported that asbestos was present in their school estate. It should be noted, however, that as this was only a proportion of state-funded schools, the responses may not be representative of all schools.
The Department launched a second data collection, the Asbestos Management Assurance Process, in March 2018. This was launched to help the Department develop a more comprehensive understanding of asbestos management in the school estate. This data collection has just closed, and responses are being analysed. The Department intends to publish the findings from this report in spring 2019.
To help local authorities, governing bodies and academy trusts meet their legal duties and manage asbestos effectively, the Department refers to advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The Department also published ‘Asbestos Management in Schools’ guidance in February 2017. The HSE advice is clear that if asbestos is unlikely to be damaged or disturbed then it is best managed in situ. Although, the Department is also clear that when asbestos does pose a risk to safety and cannot be effectively managed in situ, it should be removed.
Since 2015, the Department has allocated £6 billion to those responsible for school buildings and for essential maintenance and improvements, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when it is the safest course of action to do so. In addition, through the Priority School Building Programme, the Department is rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition in over 500 schools across the country. Asbestos was a factor in selecting buildings for the programme.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how much capital expenditure has been incurred by his Department for removing asbestos from school buildings in each financial year since 2010.
Schools and those responsible for school buildings receive annual condition funding for maintaining and improving buildings, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when it is the safest course of action to do so. This funding is delivered through different routes depending on their size and type. Local authorities and larger multi academy trusts receive a school condition allocation and it is for them to prioritise investment across the schools for which they are responsible. Smaller, or stand-alone academy trusts and sixth form colleges have access to the Condition Improvement Fund.
The Department for Education has responsibility for England and has distributed over £11 billion in condition funding nationally from 2011-12 to 2018-19, an average of £1.4 billion a year. In addition, the Priority School Building Programme is rebuilding or refurbishing school buildings in the worst condition across England, covering over 500 schools. Asbestos was a factor when selecting buildings for the programme.
Expert advice from the Health and Safety Executive is clear that as long as asbestos-containing materials are undamaged, and not in locations where they are vulnerable to damage, they are best managed in situ. The Department is clear that when asbestos cannot be effectively managed in situ, it should be removed or encapsulated – and the Department provides significant condition funding which can be used for this purpose.