Many parents and voters will have been upset by the announcement last week that the national Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to an end.
But Michael Gove was right to make what must have been a very hard decision to end a wasteful programme. The subsequent problems with the list of what is going and what is being kept hardly made things any better, but the problems there are more likely to be the work of civil servants than the Minister.
Cutting BSF is part of the price that must now be paid to cover Labour's debts. Labour left us with the largest deficit in our peacetime history, and £1 in every £4 they were spending was borrowed. Investment in schools must continue and the proposals for "Free Schools" look promising what ever savings need to be found in the short term.
However, we should only look to cut where there are real savings to be made and recognise that some schools need the investment they have been banking on.
One example is South Camden Community School (SCCS), where I am a governor. There are many other schools like it across Britain: an inner city comprehensive with an ethnically diverse pupil mix.
SCCS is an example of one school that should be spared the cuts in BSF and so should a few other schools in a similar position where huge amounts of time and money have already been spent getting them close to breaking ground. The sunk costs are massive and it is widely recognised that new facilities will be needed.
In 2007 Ofsted noted the impact at SCCS of “the severe physical constraints of the site” and this will have to be addressed sometime, whatever the funding scheme is called. It should be now, when the half the work has already been done, rather than making cuts that will only lead to even more money having to be spent in future.
SCCS was one of the first schools to enter the BSF programme and while the national BSF programme has been a disaster of bad planning, bureaucracy and waste, SCCS has invested heavily with time and money in overcoming those problems. This investment cannot be clawed back if the programme is cancelled. Having invested so much already it would be foolish not to complete the process.
The work at SCCS is very close - only six weeks away from starting on site. Cutting the programme now would leave the school with an uncertain future as the new academic year starts in the autumn. Redeveloping SCCS will be much cheaper than building an entirely new school - about half the cost of some recent developments - but will still deliver the facilities and space that local children need. There are two new forms of entry due as part of the development in response to the growing number of children in the area.
There are other schools that are in a comparable situation where a similar case can be made, but not so many that it will derail national spending plans.
It was a brave decision to axe Building Schools for the Future. It will be a brave one to save those schools that, like South Camden Community School, deserve it.
Michael Gove, are you up to the task?