Boris Johnson has announced a £200m upgrade of existing college buildings a year earlier than was previously planned. PM Johnson indicated that the plan, previously announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his March budget, would start in September 2020. The money will come from the government's £1.5bn college capital funding pot designed to repair and upgrade college estates and buildings across the country. The 5 year project was slated to start in 2021.
The fast tracked investment of £200m was announced alongside the rebuilding programme for UK schools, a £560m investment in refurbishment planned to begin this year.
Fast tracked recovery
The work has been fast tracked as part of the government's agenda to drive forward the Covid-19 recovery through a series of ambitious construction projects. In an effort to safeguard jobs and incomes, Johnson has announced his deal for the UK which is designed in the Prime Minister's words "to lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission."
Chief executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, praised the government for supporting colleges as central players in the country's recovery after the coronavirus crisis. With Johnson promising every child will receive a 'world class education', Hughes hoped the money would be made available as quickly as possible in order for colleges to invest in the necessary repairs, adaptations, equipment and digital infrastructure to deliver on Johnson's promise.
In what Number 10 is calling a 'transformative' 10 year rebuilding programme, schools and colleges will receive funding this year to undertake necessary refurbishment, followed by £1bn in funding for the first 50 projects. Further waves of investment will follow over the next decade.
Investment will be targeted at the worst schools including substantial investment in the Midlands and North. Investment will be prioritised based upon the existing condition of the buildings. Construction of the first new sites is slated for September 2021. In line with the government's pledge to build back better and greener, rebuilding projects will use MMC to meet net zero targets, boost the sector and create highly skilled jobs that will address the skills gap in construction.
This is the first major schools refurbishment and rebuilding project since Labour's Building Schools for the Future scheme was scrapped in 2014, one of the first victims of austerity. The majority of school buildings in England are currently more than 40 years old, making the new investment long overdue.
The project is also likely to replace the existing Priority School Building Programme which has spent some £4.4bn on 537 repair and rebuild projects since 2011. Also announced is a competition to take place later in the year for funding to ensure that all of England is covered by Institutes of Technology.
This is part of a wider scheme to ensure that everyone has the chance to gain higher technical skills in line with ambitions to replicate a German style educational system and unlock growth across the country.