Boris Johnson vows £1bn investment in ‘world-class’ school buildings as he begins coronavirus ‘bounce back’ plan
The Prime Minister will use a speech this week to promise a raft of investment projects. (PA)
Boris Johnson has promised to help England’s schools “bounce back” from the coronavirus pandemic with a £1bn investment package.
The Prime Minister is pledging a ten-year rebuilding programme, with schools and colleges also handed funding from this year to refurbish buildings.
The move comes as Mr Johnson prepares to make a major speech on the Government’s plans to help the economy recover from the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr Johnson said: “All children deserve the best possible start in life – regardless of their background or where they live.
“As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission.
“This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings so that every child gets a world-class education.”
While the plans will be fleshed out later in the year with a government-wide Spending Review, Number 10 is promising that money will be targeted at school buildings in the worst condition, with “substantial investment in the North and the Midlands”.
Construction on the first sites will begin from September 2021, Downing Street said, while £560m and £200m for repairs and upgrades to schools and further education colleges respectively will be given out this year.
The proposed investment comes after Mr Johnson said he planned to pump investment into hospitals, schools, housing and infrastructure projects in a bid to help the economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
And in a conscious attempt to distance himself from his Conservative predecessor David Cameron’s raft of public spending cuts in the wake of the late 2000s financial crisis, Mr Johnson told the Mail on Sunday: “We are absolutely not going back to the austerity of ten years ago.”
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the Government to ensure that any economic recovery is built on “solid foundations”, as the party pointed out that public capital investment per person had fallen in seven of England’s nine regions over the past decade.
“For much of the country, the Tories’ record on building and investment has been a lost decade,” the Labour leader said.
And Sir Keir added: “Our recovery from the coronavirus crisis needs to match the scale of the challenge. It must be built on solid foundations. It has to work for the whole country and end the deep injustices across the country.
“We are on the cusp of one of the biggest economic crises we have ever seen. The Government must immediately prioritise protecting people’s lives and livelihoods. That’s why Labour has called for a ‘Back to Work’ Budget that has a laser-like focus on one thing – jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, meanwhile the new school plans were “spin over substance”.
The party leadership hopeful said: "Schools need urgent investment to increase space now, not vague numbers pulled out of thin air.
"Whether it's investing in schools or hospitals, time and again the Conservatives have over promised and under delivered."