School must be at head of the queue for funding

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

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It’s not hard to see Brian McClarin’s frustration. The headteacher of King Richard School in Paulsgrove is having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on repairs to the building and is now talking of making staff cuts to help find the money.

Huge sums are being committed just to keep the school going, but there is no bottomless pit of cash. It has to come from somewhere.

At least £200,000 is needed for maintenance each year and a catalogue of problems this summer meant the situation got so bad that the city council had to step in with emergency reserves.

Just look what the school has had to contend with. Drains collapsed and caused flooding. Then the roof over the science block collapsed.

Pipes had to be changed because they were making drinking water stagnant and the central heating system was removed as it wasn’t venting properly, creating a risk of carbon monoxide fumes drifting into the school.

Now Mr McClarin feels enough is enough. He says he can’t keep paying out to patch up the school.

‘The school is like a car on its last legs. We are throwing away good money after bad,’ he says.

To him, there is only one solution. He wants the government to come up with £12m so that King Richard can be completely rebuilt.

The problem for Mr McClarin and other headteachers has been the axeing of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme last June. King Richard was among schools across the area that lost out on millions of pounds promised to improve facilities.

It was a huge blow and has put those schools in a very difficult position.

The irony for Mr McClarin and King Richard is that because a list of maintenance jobs have been done, ministers think there isn’t a problem.

But do we really want to get into a situation where a school has to consider cutting staff to pay for repairs? Of course not.

With the government planning to release £2bn for school capital funding projects, surely King Richard is one of the most deserving cases.