THE Prime Minister visited a revitalised Chester school yesterday and announced further funding for rebuilding schools.
David Cameron took a tour around Upton Heath Primary School ahead of his announcement a further
£2 billion will be pumped into refurbishing and rebuilding crumbling schools across the country.
Upton Heath is set to benefit as it has £2 million earmarked for its redevelopment, although no plans have been drawn up yet.
Mr Cameron praised the school – which was in special measures five years ago – for turning things around. He said there was an opportunity to make the schools “bigger as well as better”.
Mr Cameron was asked whether schoolchildren in the area had lost out after Labour’s schoolbuilding policy was scrapped in 2010 by former Coalition education secretary Michael Gove, only to be replaced in 2014 with the Priority Schools Programme.
He said: “It was a programme which wasn’t working. If you compare this programme with the Labour one, this is building schools three times as quickly and at a third of the cost so it was worthwhile doing the work to put in place a programme that could deliver more schools more quickly.
“The programme we inherited was a failing programme. It took three years to build the first school whereas this has only taken a year and, as I say, at a third of the time and cost so we can refurbish three times as many schools.”
Mr Cameron was asked if the programme would increase the number of school places available.
He said: “We are investing billions in additional school places.
“There is £5m set aside for that in the next Parliament, but as you refurbish a school like this – one which has gone from special measures to being a good school and expanded at the same time – there may be opportunities to make this school bigger as well as better.”
Chester MP Stephen Mosley, said during the visit: “It is fantastic to welcome the Prime Minister to Upton Heath Primary today to see the fantastic work that has gone on.
“In 2009 it was classed as a failing school and it has turned around since a new head and new management came in.
“The announcement today will be another stepping stone in making sure Upton Heath is one of the best schools we have got locally. This, of course, is going on across Cheshire and Chester to make sure all kids in Chester get a fantastic eduction.
“This is the second phase of the priority schools programme. [In] the first phase we had four schools in Blacon granted the money and we are already seeing the work going on.
“Buildings are important but for me the most important thing is having inspirational teachers and headteachers and we have seen [that] with Upton Heath.
“Five years ago we had a new headteacher and management and they have turned the school around.
“However, this is a 1950s school and it is showing its age.
“They have a lot of problems. One of the big problems is a lot of the classrooms aren’t usable in the summer. They have massive windows and the classrooms overheat.
“During the summer the headteacher allows male teachers to wear shorts for teaching because it is too hot to wear anything else, so the conditions the kids are in are really important.”
Headteacher Paula Moreton said now the funding had been secured a feasibility study would be carried out to see if the school would be refurbished or rebuilt.
She said: “All we know is our drains will work, our heating will work. We are going to stop the leaks.
“When I first came here the school was in special measures and so financially it had a deficit budget.
“My initial aim was to get the standards right in the school so you invest in the people because they make the school not the building.
“In the last few years we have been looking at getting funding so we have put bids in to various different pots to see if we could get the funding. If you are waiting for a building you don’t start spending money when it could get knocked down so this is perfect timing for us.
“We have gone from special measures to being an excellent school in a very short space of time.
“We have excellent staff, the kids are amazing and the parents are.
“This would just top it all off so we can get the ‘outstanding’ that we know we are.”
See full story in the Chester Leader