12 September 2012
The threats to our school playing fields and playgrounds have been much publicised over the Summer and now that the politicians are back from their recess we can expect to see this issue take the stand again, particularly as we emerge blinking from our post-Olympic/Paralypmic bubble of national pride and excitement.
What seems to be passing under the radar of the populist press however is the very real internal threat to our educational outdoor spaces.
This financial year £800m was allocated to the 'Basic Need' programme in England. Basic Need describes the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to make sure that every school age child has access to a school place.
Someone somewhere got their adding up a bit awry and we are many thousands of places short - in 2014 London alone will be 18,300 reception class places down.
So much for parental choice influencing where their children receive their education, some may be lucky to get a place at all.
What about the free schools? Well these are starting up in areas where people have the skills and the time to set them up. And where they have the desire - and you do have to have an awful lot of desire to see a free school application right through to opening. They are not necessarily targeting areas where pupil places are, or will be, lacking.
So - Basic Need will pay for temporary, or semi-permanent class rooms to be added onto schools.
In the school grounds of course, where else?
In addition to Basic Need many schools are so dilapidated that they need urgent renovation - £2bn has been allocated over the next five years through the Priority School Building Programme to make this happen.
Great news .....but .....where schools need a partial rebuild the new build will often happen on the school playground, while the children keep learning in the old building. Once the new bit of building is ready then they decant across and the old building comes down. And here is the rub, there is little or no money available to make good the demolished site, these schools may only get thin layers of turf across the top of the rubble. Experience tells us that when the rubble comes through the turf these sites can become unusable.
If you are experiencing problems through losing your schools grounds, whether through sale of space to developers, provision of temporary classrooms or because building areas were not made good please let us know - we are preparing a briefing for MPs and we would like some live examples.