Apparently, Mr Osborne will be squeezing budgets in his Autumn Statement in order to free up £5 billion for capital projects thus, he thinks, kick-starting the economy (sounds a lot like Roosevelt’s New Deal to me). One billion will be for new schools: hurrah, I hear you cry but not so fast. Yep, you guessed it – they’ll all be free schools and academies.
There does seem to be tacit acceptance in the Coalition, however, that they shouldn’t have just swept away Labour’s BSF programme which was set to spend about £55 billion over fifteen years, rebuilding or refurbishing every secondary school in the country. By my simple maths, Gove is spending just over £4 billion a year on academies plus the Priority School Building scheme of £2 billion whereas BSF was costing a little less per annum (though no doubt there’s some complex sum I need to do to allow for inflation). Still, doesn’t look like there’s much in it so why didn’t they just scale it back a bit if they needed to save money or make it more efficient (the original excuse for cancelling BSF was it was an inefficient use of resources)? The real reason, of course, was it would have been difficult to disappoint all those schools that knew where they were on the ‘waiting list’ many years down the line and just convert it all to academies. Just repeat after me, “Academies good, free schools better!”