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Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield Attercliffe, has claimed that the country has more than a hundred 'Derwent' schools, ...
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield Attercliffe, has claimed that the country has more than a hundred 'Derwent' schools, timber framed constructions of the 1950s, that are in need of replacement. (HC 23 Nov col 866).

He told the Commons that a Health and Safety Executive report in 1987 revealed severe structural problems with the schools, with roofs at risk of collapse due to rotting timber supports.

After the HSE report, props were built into the schools which are subject to periodical inspections from structural engineers, but the interim nature of the repairs creates uncertainty for pupils parents and staff, Mr Betts said.

The MP highlighted that problem faced by Sheffield City Council, which has £1m of credit approvals for this year while the cost of replacing the school in the worst condition is estimated at £2m. Inspections have found that £100,000 needs to be spent on the school for it to survive the next two years safely, and £1m would need to be spent on it over 10 years just to keep it open for that time.

'Clearly spending £1m on a building which we know will be incapable of providing a decent framework for a school in years to come is an utter waste of money.' he said.

Education minister Robin Squire replied that after the department of education was alerted to the problem by Sheffield in 1987, local education authorities were issued with defects notices, and research conducted in 1988 advised regular checking of building with similar construction.

Since then, said the minister, authorities had only advised the department of between 10 and 15 cases.

Capital spending priorities was largely up to the local authority concerned, said Mr Squire.

'I acknowledge that in recent years tight public expenditure survey settlements have meant the allocations available for improvement or replacement work have not been as high as some local authorities might have wished. It is worth highlighting, therefore, that the criteria for allocating capital resources were agreed with the local authority associations over 10 years ago,' he said.

The minister pointed out that under the agreed criteria, a bid for 'exceptional basic need' could only succeed where it could be demonstrated that repair would be more expensive than replacement. Whilst he was 'happy to revisit the priorities established', that would need broad agreement across local authorities, he added.

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