More than £6 million is to be pumped into Birmingham schools to help them cope with a predicted increase in pupil numbers, Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced.
The city is to receive £6.6 million on top of regular government funding, while Sandwell Council is to benefit with a grant of £1.8 million.
In a statement to the Commons, Mr Gove also confirmed that the last hope of reviving Sandwell’s school building programme had been extinguished.
He announced in October that he was unwilling to reverse his decision to scrap the council’s £138 million Building Schools for the Future project, which involved rebuilding or refurbishing nine schools.
The council was given one last chance to appeal, but Mr Gove told the Commons: “I am not persuaded that I should depart from the decision which I announced I was minded to take.”
There was one ray of hope for Sandwell, where councillors, unions and local MPs have been bitterly critical of Mr Gove, as the Education Secretary announced he would refund any costs the council was legally obliged to pay because of the cancelled scheme.
Sandwell, and other councils which missed out on Building Schools for the Future funding including Birmingham, are still able to bid for cash from a new £2 billion school building fund created by Mr Gove.
But they will receive no special treatment and will have to compete against every other education authority.
Mr Gove told the Commons he was allocating £500 million across the country “to local authorities experiencing the greatest need in managing shortfalls in providing pupil places”.
The Office for National statistics estimates the number of primary school children in 2020 will be 21 per cent higher than it was in 2010.
The Education Secretary said: “I understand the economic situation means difficult choices need to be made about how to direct funding but I urge local authorities to target resources at managing the shortfalls in pupils places wherever they are most needed, and taking into account of the views of parents.”
Pank Patel, headteacher of Wood Green Academy in Wednesbury, which was due to get a total BSF rebuild worth £13 million, said today: “It’s quite devastating. It’s not about me or the school – it’s about our learners.
“It just means they are not going to have the same facilities that other learners have in other parts of the country. They desperately need the same facilities so they are not at a disadvantage.
“We have had to ensure that morale is still high, to do things to ensure that our young people know they are not second-rate.
“We are doing what we can in repairing roofs and putting new windows in, and will spend £400,000 over the next 18 months, but it’s nowhere near as effective as having a completely new £13m building, with up-to-date, flexible spaces for young people to learn and socialise in.”
Gordon Phillips, principal of Meadows Sports College, a special school in Oldbury for children with complex, profound and multiple learning difficulties, said: “It’s highly disappointing that one of the authorities with such major social and economic deprivation should miss out.
“Mr Gove has made his decision months ago, and he doesn’t want to do a U-turn. But had he done a U-turn, the esteem in which he is held would have gone up with lots of people.
“He’s doing himself no favours at all and not being empathetic to the needs of students. It’s today’s students that will suffer as well as those in the future.
“We’ve got students with life-threatening problems here at Meadows. It causes so much stress to the parents as well. It was 100 per cent we were going to get that money when Labour were in.”
Mr Phillips said his school had planned to spend the BSF money on revamping its ICT infrastructure, installing a new programme for students, who although aged up to 19, have a mental age of five in some cases.