A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Playground cuts leave a sour taste

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

So the Coalition have announced the end of the Playbuilder scheme, scrapping or scaling back hundreds of community playground projects. The exact direct savings to the public purse are unclear. The scheme’s overall budget was £235 million to fund 3,500 projects. According to the BBC less than 1,300 have been completed so a rough guess might be that £150 million won’t be spent.

Now rewind a few days to the suggestions to end free milk for the under fives. That would have saved £50-59 million per year.

The need for free milk for young children is unclear. The scheme originated when wartime rationing was still in force. However milk and other sources of nutirition are easily bought now. The BBC has a good article on the pros and cons. The main concern is probably that milk may help suppliment the diet of children whose parents do not provide them with the nutrition they need.

The Playbuilder cuts have raised mutterings about increased childhood obesity.

I admit I am comparing apples with oranges here: Playbuilder uses Capital (one-off) funds whereas Nursery Milk is a annual cost. However, costs over a three year period would seem to be roughly similar.

So what we have is a choice between 2 schemes that basically cost the same over three  years. The Coalition has decided to keep the milk and cut the playgrounds without explaining the health benefits/ impacts of these decisions.

Instead the perception is that school milk is an “untouchable” due to the (erroneous) legacy of ““Maggie Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”. Playgrounds are a soft target.

I would not like to think that the Coalition make their decisions based on focus group rather than facts.

Nick Harvey voices Lib Dem fears about school buildings cuts

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Nick Harvey MPLib Dem Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey MP wants  a speedy review of alternative funding sources for schools that have lost out in the cuts to the school buildings budget.

And he’s written to the Tory Education Minister Michael Gove to point that out.

A few choice quotes are:

“I accept that putting these projects on hold in light of the current deficit, or pending a review of how to achieve best value from such a programme, can be justified but that does not mean that the basic problem of inadequate school buildings disappears.”

“It is important for the morale of the students, staff, governors and the wider community that the real and obvious need for these buildings to be replaced is acknowledged, and that alternative and transparent mechanisms be put in place at the earliest practical moment. I also think that such a course of action is important to the credibility of the Government, as unnecessary delay will only breed an atmosphere of cynicism.”

I knew that the Lib Dem Youth & Students (now Liberal Youth) action week in North Devon in 2006 was a good investment of my time.

Nick is yet another voice in the growing chorus of concern at the cuts. It is not so much that the brakes have been put on, it is the lack of clarity about alternative sources.

I am governor at a Primary School and a lack of refurbishment/ building updates would have meant that our energy bills would have continued to be an increasingly large and uncertain part of the budget. In the last few years we have seen window replacements and special tiling for the (flat) roof, which appears to be saving some money. Not all doors and windows have been replaced and no doubt this winter there will still be many ways for heat to escape.

When budgets are stretched, large-scale rebuilds may have to be scaled back, but there is plenty that can be done with modern materials to improve existing buildings or extend schools to replace temporary huts.

Liberal Democrats need to keep on the case with this policy. Gove should not be allowed to simply stop all school building projects regardless of need.