Labour to force release of survey in parliament 

The government has been accused of hiding the poor condition of English schools after abandoning the publication of its latest building survey. 

Ministers had promised to release the data at the end of last year, after the Observer published secret internal documents which showed some buildings were a “risk to life”. 

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Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson accused the government of failing to keep children safe

But when approached by the newspaper last week, the Department for Education (DfE) gave no new date for publication of the Building Conditions Survey and would not explain why its position had changed. 

The last condition data collection, which ran between 2017 and 2019 and covered 22,031 schools estimated the total cost to fix capital estate defects in England’s schools would be £11.4bn. 

In its latest report, the DfE said there was a “risk of collapse of one or more blocks” in some schools, with light-frame systems builds between 1945 and 1970 highlighted as particularly at risk. 

The government’s existing school rebuilding programme aims to deliver 500 rebuilding projects across the next decade at a total cost of £1bn. 

The current rate of school renovation is 50 each year, with the first set announced at the start of 2021, but leaks from the DfE last year showed officials asking for new funds from the Treasury to ramp up work to more than 300 schools a year. 

Labour has threatened to table a rarely used parliamentary motion known as a “humble address” to force to the release of the data, with shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson accusing ministers of failing to keep children safe from harm. 

“Parents will rightly be outraged at the government’s continued refusal to tell them the location and condition of buildings which pose a risk to their children’s lives,” she said. 

“This endless flip-flopping from ministers over when to publish information about buildings that they have admitted are likely to collapse is an insult to parents worried that their children are not safe at school.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “The condition data collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive data collection programmes in the UK public sector, which helps us to understand the condition of the school estate in England and informs prioritisation of funding.  

“The school rebuilding programme is transforming 500 schools over the next decade, prioritising schools based on their need. Since 2015, we have also allocated over £13bn for improving the condition of school buildings and facilities, including £1.8bn this financial year.”