THOUSANDS of children in Liverpool have benefited from a school building scheme that has transformed the educational landscape in the city for generations to come.
Eight years ago this month (July) the national Building Schools for the Future programme collapsed after the government pulled the plug on the £55bn project.
Heralded as the biggest school investment in modern history, the programme pledged to rebuild every secondary school in England, with extra cash to improve primary schools as well.
When the scheme was axed, it left 150 new school projects high and dry – including many in Liverpool.
Inside the new Notre Dame High School
The Liverpool BSF scheme alone was worth £350m at the time it was cancelled. The unfulfilled promises meant legions of children faced the prospect of completing their education in old, tired buildings, many of which were not fit for the demands of a 21st century education.
But all was not lost, because Liverpool City Council – led by its Mayor Joe Anderson, devised an ambitious rescue plan that would see a host of the city’s schools get new brand new buildings.
The Liverpool Schools Investment Programme (LSIP), generated more than £180M in council and government funding. In just five years a total of 22 schools have benefited from the project.
It has meant that 15 of the city’s schools have been completely re-built, three more have benefited from significant new builds, whilst a further four have received new extensions and other buildings.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “The collapse of the Building Schools for the Future programme was a very dark day for education in Liverpool. It meant that a lot of hopes had been dashed and the concern was that our children would not receive the standard of education they deserved due to increasingly out-of-date buildings.”
“Faced with the enormity of the problem it would have been easy for us to say it was beyond our control and blame it all on the government but that would have done nothing to improve matters for the city’s children.
“Instead we invited all our partners to sit round the table and work together to produce an alternative. What was created was truly remarkable and the city is still reaping the benefits to this day.”
In total, more than 14,000 students and pupils have directly benefited from the transformation. It also created more than 2,000 construction jobs in the city. Over 200 young people were given the chance to develop their skills and improve their career prospects through apprenticeships.
In total, 62 per cent of the investment was spent with Liverpool firms, this rises to 74 per cent across the whole of Merseyside. Around £45M worth of funding was generated from the sale of former school sites for housing development – which helped to recoup some of the costs. As part of this 10 new housing sites with 650 new homes were created, which have created revenue from council tax.
The council has further benefited from an annual £650,000 ‘windfall’ from the lease of buildings, which it will receive for the next 25 years to reinvest in essential services.
Mayor Anderson recently visited one of the project’s newest schools, Birtenshaw in Fazakerley, to see some of the great work taking place.
The £5M school on the site of the former Dyson Hall School was completed earlier this year. Run by the Birtenshaw Charitable Group, Birtenshaw School, provides education for up to 50 children aged three to 19 with special educational needs and disabilities. The school caters for students with a range of additional needs including learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions. It supports students with speech, language and communication needs, multi-sensory impairments, behaviours that some may find challenging, physical impairments and complex health needs.
The new school’s facilities include a 25 metre hydrotherapy pool with multi-sensory sound and light system. The pool is the largest of its kind in the country. Other features include a rebound therapy room, multi-sensory spaces incorporating immersive technology and a sensory integration room.
Head of school, Stacia Pettersen, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the City of Liverpool to provide excellent specialist teaching and state of the art facilities in a purpose-built school designed to enhance the educational outcomes for children with additional needs. We are looking forward to welcoming the first group of pupils in September and to seeing the partnership with the City develop further over the coming years.”
The investment programme is now entering its final phases when an extension to the Primary Education Centre on Mill Lane is due to be completed later this year.
Liverpool School Investment Programme in numbers:
£180m worth of investment.
22 schools transformed.
Completed 15 new schools, three new builds and four extensions or new blocks.
More than 14,000 student and pupils benefited.
Generated £45m from the sale of old and vacant school sites.
Created 10 new housing sites with a total of 650 new homes, all of which generated council tax to fund essential services.
Spent 62% of project funds with Liverpool firms.
Created 2,000 construction jobs and 200 apprenticeships.
Main photo: Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson outside Birtenshaw School with Birtenshaw Chief Executive David Reid, Deputy Chief Executive Julie Barnes and Head of School Stacia Pettersen.