The simple answer is YES! Of course I clarify this by saying there is always a need to replace buildings and provide more congenial environments for children to learn in. However, this should happen in the normal cycle of replacing buildings that wear out and improving design etc. The real question is: does the provision of a new building make a significant difference to what goes on inside it. The answer to this question must be a resounding NO!
This particular government and now the Conservatives, if they take office, seem obsessed with creating new schools. An even more ridiculous scenario has occurred with the current Labour government: the worst schools are knocked down and replaced by an academy. Did anybody stop to ask what was actually wrong with the one they knocked down? The new building, or academy, will be largely peopled by the same students and many of the same teachers that were in the failing school. Surely what matters is what is actually going on in the building. This is the real question that must be asked. It is embarrassing for the government to admit that many of the new academies are performing just as badly as the schools they replaced. They were not the panacea for the ills in education they were cracked up to be.
I believe the bulk of the money this government has wasted on building new schools should have been invested in the students themselves. The biggest problem all secondary schools face in the UK is the quality of their intake. Many children are entering secondary education with poor literacy and numeracy skills. If the massive investment given to erecting shiny new buildings had instead been injected into primary schools to solve numeracy and literacy problems, there would have been huge improvements in secondary school results by now. The moment a child faced difficulty, it could have been addressed immediately. There would have been no lack of resources to do this. Instead, the primary schools have been starved of desperately needed cash for special needs. This kind of help is reserved for only the most desperate cases and many children drift through the system with ‘undetected’ problems.
I hoped there would be a change from the Conservatives but it seems the lure of shiny new buildings is still there. It could be that another generation of children will have nice new classrooms to sit in but will not be able to access the curriculum they are being offered, due to poor literacy and numeracy.