Headlines: June 24th, 2008

Eight local authorities are being fast-tracked into the Building Schools for the Future programme. They will now be able to begin developing plans with an estimated value of more than 600 million pounds.

The eight councils – Enfield, Hounslow, North Tyneside, Rotherham, Southampton, Staffordshire, Walsall and Worcestershire -have been approved for the programme, which is designed to give secondary school pupils hugely improved facilities. They can now start developing projects to rebuild and refurbish the five schools in their areas most in need of investment. Other local secondary schools will be replaced or renewed later in the programme.

They join more than 70 other councils already in BSF and where about a thousand schools are already being revamped, including around 180 projects for academies. The eight councils had originally been listed among the 33 councils that would form the next tranche to join the scheme. They were all invited to demonstrate they were ready to start projects from this summer. The Schools Minister Jim Knight said, “It is right to give the go-ahead to projects which are ready to start so local authorities can target the schools that need it most.”

They will now work with Partnerships for Schools to take their plans forward. Tim Byles, Chief Executive of PFS, said about half of English local authorities had embarked on their plans and to keep up the momentum a number of others were being fast-tracked when they could demonstrate they were ready to join the scheme ahead of the original timetable. He added that with 13 BSF schools open, research was starting to show how new and remodeled schools were benefitting students, teachers and local communities.