Written - 21st Century Schools Programme – Transitional Capital Monies for Schools and FE Institutions
In February this year, I made a statement to Plenary that as part of the ‘One Wales’ agenda this Government had made a commitment to deliver schools fit for the 21st century, and that I proposed to develop a long-term strategic capital investment plan that would impact upon every school, college and university in Wales.
Schools in Wales need to be places that inspire our young people; places that can accommodate 21st century technology and be adapted to meet the changing needs of learners in a rapidly developing knowledge economy.
I indicated in my statement in Plenary that I would aim to make an announcement in March on the first of 2009-10 - 21st century schools capital allocations as the next step in the transition towards a more strategically focussed allocation process.
As we progress towards the implementation of 21st century schools programme, it will mean a significant step change for local authorities as we move away from individual projects to a more strategic approach to capital investment in schools. We will look to target investment where there is a state of readiness; but more importantly where there is an identified need. The criteria for this targeted funding have been developed in partnership with the WLGA and Education Directors.
As part of that process, in January 2009 local authorities were invited to submit proposals for the first tranche of transitional school capital investment monies. The response was exceptional with 130 proposals with a total investment value of £405m, being received from all 22 local education authorities.
I am pleased to announce that 32 capital projects have been approved in the first tranche of transition Welsh Assembly Government capital investment totalling £78.7 million, supporting £161.3 million of Local Government investment. This first allocation of funding will support the delivery of 12 new schools and 10 significant refurbishment schemes during 2009-10. The investment will impact across the whole range of education provision from early years/flying start, through to primary and secondary and SEN provision.
Furthermore this targeted investment will now start to help authorities address the legacy of under-investment with a number of projects enabling local authorities to replace poor sub-standard accommodation and to provide facilities more akin to the needs of the 21st century learner.
These allocations will build upon the additional investment from the SCIF programme and will now enable the programme to be extended and rolled out across the whole of Wales.
This programme represents a step change in the strategic investment in education in Wales. As a result of these allocations announced today authorities will be able to progress with reorganisation programmes and this investment will help authorities deliver ongoing efficiency savings – resources that can be used to enhance education in Wales. Looking forward, by taking a more proactive, all-Wales approach we will be able to achieve greater value for money and support larger scale reorganisations and transformational proposals.
Following my approval of Denbighshire County Council’s proposals to bring about major reform in post-16 education in Rhyl the grant award of over £3.4 million towards the construction of new facilities is clear demonstration of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to providing 21st century learning environments that inspire the learners whilst providing an extensive choice of study options, both vocational and academic, in a convenient location.
Allocations to FEIs and 14-19 Learning Partnerships.
Twenty-five proposals were submitted by Further Education Institutions and 14-19 Learning Partnerships for consideration for funding for the period 2009-10 to 2011-12 with a total value of £205.7m
I am also pleased to announce that a further 8 projects have been approved at a total of £52.4m with the Assembly Government supporting £30.2m over the course of the next three years. This funding will allow those institutions to undertake significant improvements to their capital estate. In particular this will support significant projects such as the delivery of a new campus at Nantgarw. It will help address skills gaps such as Energy & Fabrication centre at Coleg Menai which will provide New Build Energy skills that are much needed in that area.
Clearly not every local authority or college will have been successful in securing funds in the first tranche of funding and Assembly officials will be writing to those who were unsuccessful with a view to provide additional assistance prior to the next meeting of the Capital Panel which will take place during May/June.
The Welsh Assembly Government has been proactive during this current recession especially in the area of public investment. The £9m that I brought forward from financial year 2009-10 to 2008-09 has been particularly successful in assisting local authorities, colleges and universities with their minor works programme. A number of local authorities have advised of the positive impact upon local economy by generating construction work for local firms.
This is also an opportune time to underline the Assembly Government’s commitment to encourage local authorities to ensure that school toilets are given a prominent profile when undertaking significant refurbishment projects.
My statement today is to report on commitments I made in Plenary. The 21st century schools programme is an ambitious plan that will in the long term transform post -16 education and rebuild and refurbish every school in Wales. The £78.7 million announced today supports the transition towards a more strategic investment and is a clear demonstration of the Assembly Government’s commitment to deliver a 21st century school investment programme.