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Written Statement - 21st Century Schools Programme

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

I am pleased to announce a programme of capital investment in school buildings across Wales that will amount to £1.4 billion.

This represents the first wave of a long-term programme of investment.

Following the statement I made last July, local authorities have re-assessed their Strategic Outline Programmes and prioritised their investment proposals based on local needs and local circumstances. These priorities of investment seek to address not only the poor condition and surplus capacity in the schools estate, but also any investment requirement for additional learning needs, Welsh-medium education and faith based school provision.

The 21st Century Schools Programme is being developed as a partnership between Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association, Diocesan Directors of the Voluntary Aided Sector and CollegesWales. It is through this partnership working that a programme has been agreed that will ensure that all 22 local authorities will receive Welsh Government capital support in total of £700 million over a seven year period.

This investment will build upon the £415 million of capital investment that is already being provided by the Welsh Government from the Transitional Funding programme. This programme, a precursor to 21st Century Schools, is nearing completion and will dovetail into this new programme which is currently planned to start in 2014-15. It is essential that local authorities start planning their projects now. The Welsh Government, with the support of the 21st Century Schools Programme Board, will seek to accelerate the programme and bring forward individual schools projects as and when additional capital funds become available.

Information on the allocations to local authorities is attached at Annex A. I must emphasise that these projects are at Outline Stage, which means the detail may be subject to further change as the proposals are further developed, go through the school statutory consultation process (where required) and assessed through further business case submissions. This is good practice.

I am encouraged that local authorities have signalled their commitment and intent to the development of this programme.  However, I do have concerns that not all local authorities are clear in meeting the Welsh Government’s policy of All Age Transformation, and some local authorities will be subject to further challenge on the cohesiveness of their programmes at the next stage of development.

By 2014-15, the Welsh Government’s capital budget will be almost 50% lower in real terms than in 2009-10, so inevitably the Twenty First Century Schools Programme Board has had to prioritise within available resources.

I will continue to work with the Finance Minister on the issue of securing additional capital including the development of alternative sources of funding.  Collaboration across the Welsh public sector is essential to ensure we deliver the strategic projects and programmes that will have the greatest impact on the Welsh economy both in terms of direct employment and educating our future workforce.

This announcement of nearly £1.4 billion is an important contribution to the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan, identifying and prioritising our investment into the schools estate through the 21st Century Schools programme. 

I would also like to signal my intent today to develop an investment plan for the Further Education sector that is aligned with the 21st Century Schools Programme. I have asked my officials to contact all Further Education Institutions to discuss their investment priorities. 

Securing capital investment in these difficult economic times is essential, not only for better education outcomes, but also for improving the economy of our communities. My announcement today underlines the Welsh Government’s absolute commitment to improving the lives of people in Wales.