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WALTHAM FOREST: Schools respond to BSF cuts
A TOTAL of 16 schools in Waltham Forest are set to miss out on multi-million pound rebuilding projects as part of a Government squeeze on public spending.
Yesterday Education Secretary Michael Gove axed more than 700 projects to rebuild schools around the country.
Last month the Guardian reported how headteachers were trying to remain cautiously optimistic that projects would still go ahead at their schools.
But yesterday the Government had to scrap the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) plans, a Labour Government initiative, saving billions of pounds.
Waltham Forest Labour MPs John Cryer and Stella Creasy expressed their anger at the announcement in a joint statement.
They said: “We are outraged at the Government’s decision to cut this much needed investment in our borough’s schools without any consultation with parents, pupils, governors, teachers or councillors.
"We’ve seen the difference new school facilities such as those at Frederick Bremer and Kelmscott make – and as the local MPs we want those resources for every child in our borough.
"Time, money and energy has gone into putting together plans to rebuild schools like Leytonstone, William Morris or Willowfield.
"Now with the swing of Michael Gove’s axe that’s all wasted and we have no idea how they plan to meet the urgent need for school places we have here either.
"The announcement also raises other questions about fairness in education as this Government channels funding into proposals for academies and free schools.
"We are determined to fight against the two tier system they seem to want to create which could leave thousands of young people in our borough without the schools and quality learning opportunities they need and deserve.”
The pair have jointly written a parliamentary Early Day Motion condemning the cuts and are seeking clarification about what the announcement will mean for investment in education in the borough in the current financial year.
Julia Mainwaring, headteacher of Belmont Park School in Leyton, which was due to receive more than £3 million to expand the school, called the situation "really sad".
She said: "We are always over-subscribed. As a special school we are not like mainstream that has a September intake.
“We have 56 pupils on the roll and were hoping to take capacity to around 64.
"It's not fair on children with a disability who cannot come here because we've not got the capacity. "It's vital for us and is really sad for parents and their children."
Ms Mainwaring said she was hoping the Government would review the situation in time.
Eve Wilson, headteacher at Willowfield School in Walthamstow, which was due to be completely rebuilt in Blackhorse Road, said she remains positive and hopes a Government spending review in October will see some projects allocated cash.
She said: "We've been working on our project for a long period of time and for the last few weeks we've been designing the building and have been getting quite excited.
"I'm still quite upbeat as I don't think the projects stopping means they have been cut.
"All the projects will be reduced on a case by case basis and the aim here is for the school to become 50 per cent bigger and the Government can't do without the expansion, there won't be enough places."
Ms Wilson admitted it is a case of "fingers crossed" and she said delays have already taught staff, parents and pupils that "the school is a great deal more than the building it is in".
In the House of Commons yesterday Mr Gove said: "The Building Schools for the Future scheme has been responsible for about one third of all this department’s capital spending.
"But throughout its life it has been characterised by massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy."
Mr Gove condemned the Labour Government's handling of the BSF scheme and pointed to "pointless bureaucracy". He said 200 new schools were supposed to be built by the end of 2008 and only 35 were built with 13 refurbished.
He added: "In order to ensure we do not waste any more money on a dysfunctional process I am today taking action to get the best possible value for the taxpayer."
The schools affected are: Belmont Park and Brookfield House, Chingford Foundation, Connaught School for Girls, George Mitchell, Heathcote, Highams Park, Holy Family Technology College, Joseph Clarke, Lammas, Leytonstone Business and Specialist Enterprise School, Norlington Boys, Rush Croft Sports College, Tom Hood, William Morris, Willowfield.
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