Nick Gibb – 2021 Statement on Free Schools and School Rebuilding Programme

The statement made by Nick Gibb, the Minister for School Standards, in the House of Commons on 8 February 2021.

I am confirming details of the first 50 schools to benefit from the new school rebuilding programme announced by the Prime Minister in June 2020, as well as details of a further 21 new free schools.

As part of the Government’s plan to drive growth beyond the covid-19 pandemic, we are committed to investing in infrastructure, skills and innovation. Investing in our school buildings is vital to deliver the world-class education needed to get the country back on its feet.

As set out at the recent spending review, we are delivering on our promises by launching a 10-year rebuilding programme, with a commitment to 500 school rebuilding projects over the next decade. This will replace many poor condition and ageing school buildings with modern, energy efficient designs, transforming education for thousands of pupils.

The 10-year school rebuilding programme demonstrates our continued commitment to investing in the school estate and providing a long-term pipeline of projects for the construction sector as we build back better.

The Department for Education will build on its existing construction expertise with a continued focus on innovative modern methods of construction to support more highly skilled jobs and improved productivity. Our market leading frameworks, including a new construction framework later this year, will continue to provide opportunities across the industry and enable small and medium-sized enterprises to benefit from the opportunities that a decade-long pipeline will bring. The construction projects procured through these frameworks will support jobs and create apprenticeships and T-level placements across England.

The first 50 schools to benefit from this programme have been prioritised based on condition need and will be supported by over £1 billion in capital funding. These first projects include primary and secondary schools as well as a sixth-form college and special and alternative provision settings.

This also represents a substantial investment in schools in the midlands and north of England, with 38 out of 50 projects located in these regions. We expect construction on the first sites to begin from autumn 2021.

The 10-year programme will continue to target school buildings in the worst condition across England and we will set out further plans shortly.

Alongside the rebuilding programme, the Government have committed £1.8 billion in 2021-22 for maintaining and improving the condition of the school estate.

Thousands more children across the country are also set to benefit from a new free school opening in their local area in the years to come, as I have approved 21 successful new free schools, providing over 15,500 new school places once open. In addition, I have approved in principle a further eight schools, subject to meeting certain conditions.

These schools will help level up opportunity across the country by providing high- quality school places in the areas where they are most needed. Ten of the 21 free schools approved will open in some of the most deprived areas—including three in opportunity areas, where the Department works to remove barriers that could stop young people achieving their potential.

These new schools reflect the Government’s continued commitment to the free school programme. Two hundred and forty nine free schools have now been approved to open in the coming years, spreading the benefits of the free schools programme to even more areas of the country and joining the 558 free schools already open.

We are also investing £10.1 million of funding in schools across England, to allow them to open their existing school sports and swimming facilities outside of the school day.

Funding will be distributed via Sport England’s network of county-level Active Partnerships. Schools will have the opportunity to bid for this funding in the summer term.

Further details, including lists of the school rebuilding projects and successful free school applicants, have been published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be placed in the House Library.