PRIVATE FINANCE SCHOOLS 'WORSE' Teachers at Odds over 'Cut-Price' Schemes

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Byline: TONY COLLINS Education Correspondent

TEACHERS leaders in Birmingham today applauded a watchdog group for claiming that schools built by profit-making firms are 'significantly worse'. The Audit Commission said the Government's flagship Private Finance Initiative did not produce schools that were better designed or better value for money than ones built by councils that raised the money themselves. The watchdog warned that PFI schools were worse in terms of space, heating, lighting and acoustics than new traditionally-funded primaries and secondaries. Concerns about the adequacy of heating, ventilation and storage space were common, but the most frequent complaint about the privately-funded schools is that classrooms were too small.

Birmingham is a pacesetter in the PFI stakes, being the first authority in England to have two schemes. A pounds 70 million programme of ten school rebuilds is being followed by a second bid involving a pounds 50 million repair and rebuilding project at a further 13 primary and secondary schools.

The National Union of Teachers in Birmingham said today the Audit Commission was 'absolutely right'.

Their report comes a month after the union claimed pupils and staff at newly rebuilt Clifton Junior in Balsall Heath were suffering freezing conditions due to inadequate heating. …