Stephen Timms, Member of Parliament for East Ham, yesterday raised the cases of two schools in his constituency in an Urgent Question in the House of Commons. Both Plashet School and Little Ilford School were earmarked for re-building, before the Government abolished Building Schools for the Future, the ambitious programme to rebuild or refurbish every school in England.

Mr Timms’ intervention came days after the High Court ruled against the Tory-led Government’s plans to scrap the Building Schools Future (BSF) in six councils – including Newham.  The Judge, Mr Justice Holman allowed the challenges by the six councils in a Judicial Review and referred to the Secretary of State’s handling of the case as “…so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power”.  In making his decision, the Judge highlighted the coalition Government’s lack of “proper consultation” in the process.  As a result, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, will be forced to review his original plans.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Timms asked the Education Secretary: “The Secretary of State has assured us that he will keep an open mind in receiving representations from the six authorities, including Newham. I ask him to take a close look at the cases of Plashet School and Little Ilford school, whose pupils made a DVD to show him the state of their buildings. Renewal now would avoid continuous costly patching up. Should it not be allowed to go forward?”

The Education Secretary responded: “The right hon. Gentleman makes a good case. I have had the opportunity to visit schools in his constituency and I appreciate the challenges that teachers face there. One reason why these six local authorities brought the case was that they were among the closest to the finishing line when the line was drawn. By definition, wherever the line was drawn, those closest to it would have felt the most acute sense of injustice; also by definition, those closest to it would have been among the most needy. Wherever the line was drawn, there would have been a feeling of grievance. I understand the feeling of grievance in Newham and I take on board the points made by the right hon. Gentleman and others.”

Speaking afterwards Mr Timms said: “I visited Downing Street in November with pupils from Little Ilford, to present the Prime Minister with a film about the effect of the cuts.  Michael Gove said he would look again at Newham’s case with an open mind.  Plashet and Little Ilford were very close to a final sign off for their plans in July. I now hope the Education Secretary will approve the plans so that, in years to come, students will after all be able to learn in new and modern facilities.”

“The Judge has forced the Government to think again.  My worry is that the Government might just go through the motions rather than genuinely reconsidering the case.”

AuthorStephen Timms