As the Government confirms it is axing the Building Schools For The Future programme, Steve Bradley visits one school desperate for refurbishment.
Faith and hope was invested here at Frank F Harrison Engineering College, by staff, pupils, governors and the community.
They could see a glimmer of light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
Youngsters at the crumbling Bloxwich school, near Walsall, had met architects and designers to discuss how they wanted their classrooms to be organised, and what furniture they would like.
Staff, including head teacher Jacqui Grace, were recruited on the basis of the new £20 million school they would be working in.
But suddenly, optimism has been taken away from them as new Education Secretary Michael Gove consigned them to an immediate future of rot, damp and cracked plaster following confirmation this week that he was stopping the rebuilding of dozens of schools in the region.
In total, 13 Birmingham schemes have been stopped, along with 21 in Coventry, nine in Sandwell, eight in Staffordshire, six in Walsall and seven in Worcestershire.
Frank F Harrison Engineering College has also been left with virtually no money after having to invest £122,000 from its capital budget on the planning stages for the project.
Set in one of the neediest parts of Walsall, which as a borough is in the top five most deprived areas of the country, the 47-year-old building still has some original wiring, and needs an asbestos check each time a teacher wants an interactive whiteboard fixed to the wall.
It has had to weld shut some windows because they have rotted and become a health and safety hazard, with pupils in danger of falling out of them and taking the frames with them.
The sports hall roof leaks and the school now has to look for £100,000 to replace it. Mrs Grace, who arrived in January from Windsor High School in Dudley, said: “We have replaced some windows on a rolling programme but we halted that because we thought we were going to get a new school.
“The building has probably only got five years left, how we are going to manage I’m not sure.
“It’s hugely disappointing for the pupils. They have actually been involved in the design process. They had even got to the point of being shown pictures of things and being asked what they would like to do with room layouts and types of furniture.
“They got very excited and believed that Bloxwich kids were being cared for for once. They come from a very deprived area of Walsall.
“In this dilapidated area of derelict factories and industrial estates, this was very much an opportunity for a community facility.”
She said she and other Walsall head teachers would be asking for a proportion of the capital they had invested to be returned, but feared that most of it had already been spent. Mrs Grace estimates basic repairs would cost £1 million.
“To completely pull out really makes you feel like you’ve been sold a long way down the river,” she said.
Pupils Jade Lycett, 12, and Matthew Hawkins, 11, both took part in the design panels.
Jade said: “It’s really sad – we badly need a new school. All the paint is coming off the walls and there are ditches in the floor.”
Matthew added: “All the work that has been put in has been wasted.”