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PM Boris Johnson promising £1bn to rebuild crumbling schools

Funding of £1bn for 50 major school building projects in England is being promised by the PM Boris Johnson.

There will also be a further £560m for repairs to crumbling school buildings.

“It’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” said Boris Johnson.

But head teachers said the National Audit Office had identified a backlog of £6.7bn repairs needed across England’s 21,000 schools.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also addressed whether there would be social distancing when all pupils return to school full time in the autumn.

“It’s not about 1 metre, it’s not about 2 metres,” he told BBC Breakfast, saying that safety was based on “reducing the number of transmission points” within schools for Covid-19 infections.

This would mean whole classes becoming “bubbles” separated from other pupils, he suggested, with a promise to address the more “complex” arrangements needed for secondary school, where pupils “criss-cross” between different sets and subjects.

He also promised there would be “comprehensive plans in terms of both testing and tracing.”

That could mean local closures of schools or sending home individual year groups in response to Covid-19 infections, Mr Williamson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The school rebuilding programme, launched by the prime minister on Monday, will tackle the problems of ageing, dilapidated school buildings and also the need to create extra spaces for rising numbers of secondary age pupils.

The 50 school building projects, which will be identified later in the year, will start from September 2021, in a 10-year programme with £1bn in funding.

There will be an extra £560m for upgrades and repairs to schools for the next academic year – and £200m for improving further education colleges, which was previously announced, will be brought forward.

“This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings,” said Mr Johnson.

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