CRUMBLING Bradford schools waiting for vital rebuilding funds will not be given new tables or chairs, ministers have admitted.
Four schools in the district - Belle Vue Boys and Carlton Bolling College in Bradford; Oakbank in Keighley and The Samuel Lister Academy in Cottingley, Bingley - are all described as a “priority” by the Government.
They are supposed be rebuilt by 2017, although the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) has been plagued by lengthy delays and uncertainty.
Now the Department for Education (DfE) has revealed it will not pay for “loose furniture” – including tables and chairs – unless the schools are also expanding their pupil numbers.
If they are simply being rebuilt to the same size, they will be told to save cash by re-using their existing furniture.
In the Commons, ministers came under pressure from MPs elsewhere in England where the first PSBP schools are being revamped.
Jim Cunningham, a Coventry MP, said: “A school in my constituency has just had a new building built under PSBP.
“However, the Education Funding Agency has informed them that there is no funding to cover furniture for the new building.
“This is presenting serious problems for the school and I’m sure for many other schools. Can the Government look into funding to help buy desks and chairs?”
But, in reply, David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools minister, defended the decision to pay for only “fixed furniture and equipment” at the new schools.
Arguing it would be “ridiculous” to provide new tables and chairs, he told MPs: “Where there is existing equipment that can sensibly be reused in the new buildings, we ask schools to do that.”
The decision is the latest twist in the frustrating saga of the priority schools programme, first announced three years ago.
In May last year, ministers pledged a private finance initiative (PFI) scheme would be launched to rebuild or revamp most of the Bradford schools “within the next year”.
However, a shortlist of bidders was not announced until April - and there is no date set for announcing the winner, or for the work to get underway.
Treasury sources say the procurement process is moving ahead only very slowly and that it could be the end of the year before the picture is clear.
Originally, the DfE suggested many PFI schemes would go to market in 2012. Across England, work has started on only 29 of 261 “priority” schools.