MPs predict tough times for schools

MPs on an influential cross-party parliamentary select committee warn today that schools in England will be forced to make economies and live within their means as the credit crunch continues.

Graham Dines

MPs on an influential cross-party parliamentary select committee warn today that schools in England will be forced to make economies and live within their means as the credit crunch continues.

The schools select committee says plans should be made “now” to allow education and children's services to cope with what it calls a “more austere future.”

In its annual report into the expenditure of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) -which is responsible for education in England only following devolution - the committee expresses concern that “these serious economic problems could undermine investment in education and related services and could prevent the Government from achieving its objectives.”

Among the problems which the select committee predicts is the reluctance of the private sector to enter into private finance initiatives (PFIs), particularly in connection with the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which aims to renew all secondary schools in England. Under PFI, private companies fund the building of schools, with typically the local authority repaying the costs over the next 25 to 30 years.

The committee's chairman Barry Sheerman said: “There is a chill wind blowing for everyone, and with PFI in particular, because they are very long term financial commitments to make.

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“One thing we clearly picked up, when you look at spending, already the expenditure on early years is lessening.”