Letter from the Department for Education and Skills
to the Clerk of the Committee
The Draft Regulatory Reform (Voluntary Aided Schools
Liabilities and Funding) (England) Order 2002
The Department has given further consideration to
the point brought to its attention by Alan Preston, in connection
with the issue raised by Mr Flood. It relates to the proposed
amendments, at Article 7(d) in our draft Order, to paragraph 5(5)
of Schedule 3 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
We can appreciate the concern that Mr Flood, and
the Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee, may have in
relation to the apparent removal of the priority given to 'repairs'
to school buildings. I outlined in my previous letter why we believe
that it is no longer appropriate to refer to 'repairs' in this
context, but I do consider that it is appropriate to give an assurance
that the Department would continue to give priority for payment
of grant in the circumstances outlined in our proposals. Those
circumstances are (in summary):
a) to make such alterations as are required
to secure conformity with the standards prescribed under section
542 of the Education Act 1996; or
b) to comply with health and safety legislation.
I can give that assurance. This is in line with the
agreement given by Ministers and the Project Board, in response
to consultation, to the retention of the principles of the existing
legislation, albeit with modifications.
It might also be helpful for me to indicate that,
under existing legislation, the circumstances in which we would
pay grant at less than 85% are rare. It can sometimes be appropriate
in the case of a new school proposed for entry into the maintained
(VA) sector but, thereafter, grant is paid at the standard rate
as a matter of course. Even during periods when the VA capital
baseline was very much lower than at present, stakeholders were
content that grant should be paid at the standard rate for capital
projects, with the provisions of the existing paragraph 5(5) of
Schedule 3 applying as appropriate. As you are aware, under the
current arrangements, the rate of grant in these circumstances
is 85%; under our proposals it would be a minimum of 90%.
1 March 2002