Hackney schools are proving that every child really does matter with the help of a huge government investment. Last week I visited Berger Primary School during their international week and saw some of the building work that is going on there. Berger is just one school within huge plans for investment in Hackney schools. Firstly, the Borough has been pledged £147 million in Government funding as part of the Building Schools for the Future Programme. Add to that a Hackney Council investment of £20 million and every secondary and special school in the Borough will be refurbished or rebuilt by 2015.
It was not so long ago that Hackney schools had a reputation for being run-down and crumbling. This was bad news not only for our children, who had to spend their days in such buildings, but it also made it difficult to recruit teachers to work in our schools. Improving the school building means a happier and safer environment for children and teachers to work in. Children in Hackney deserve to have schools with the latest technology and equipment to help their learning experience. They deserve to turn up for lessons in a bright and exciting building that inspires them as they learn.
The Building Schools for the Future Programme was designed by the Government to address areas were school buildings had been neglected for decades. Over the next three years participating areas and Boroughs will receive £9.3 billion in funding from the Department of Children, Schools and Families. The programme as a whole is the biggest investment schools in England have seen for 50 years and the Government has increased six-fold the total money spent on schools since 1997. The money from the Building Schools for the Future programme will go towards much needed work on school buildings, making sure that all schools are equipped to offer a 21st Century education to our children.
Schools in Hackney have a challenging job. The pupil population here is incredibly diverse – with a higher than average level of pupils whose first language is not English, and pupils who have special educational needs. In addition a lot of our young people are growing up in households without much money. It is vital that all of these pupils have access to a top class education that will help them achieve their goals and make a contribution.
Building Schools for the Future in Hackney is a step in the right direction towards reaching this level of education for all. So far the programme has begun for three Hackney Secondary Schools – Clapton Girls’ Technology College, Hackney Free and Parochial CE School and Stoke Newington School for Media and Art. As part of the programme schools must agree to detailed plans of renovations, and in some cases complete rebuilding. This is a long and drawn-out process but worthwhile when the results come through in a couple of years. Hackney Free and Parochial CE School will have a completely new stylish building with two sports fields and a sports hall. Stoke Newington School have spent the past weeks moving into temporary buildings in order to make way for the redevelopment of the building. And this redevelopment is really needed after problems with the roof and heating have plagued the school.
But the idea behind Building Schools for the Future in Hackney is not just to improve facilities for our pupils. The programme is also being used to turn Hackney’s schools into places of learning for the whole community. Schools should stand at the centre of communities, allowing people access to leisure and educational facilities. Pouring money into Hackney schools means the buildings can be multi-purpose and reach out to all members of the community.
The next stage in Hackney’s development is the Primary Capital Programme which will see half of Hackney’s primary schools redeveloped over 14 years. Berger Primary School is one of the first to have plans for this redevelopment drawn up.
I am looking forward to seeing these steps in the future of education for Hackney take shape. I am looking forward to seeing Hackney schools becoming more and more sought-after and I am greatly looking forward to hearing more success stories of Hackney students.