Oakbank School building is still on track

Plans are on track to begin vitally-needed rebuilding work at Oakbank School next year, the head has revealed.

David Maxwell insisted the project is moving forward as scheduled as part of the first wave of the Priority School Building Prog-ramme after concerns over possible delays.

He said: “As far as we know the school building work will begin in 2015 – it’s something we’re really excited about.

“We met the three bidders for the building contract and everything is going ahead as planned.”

Mr Maxwell spoke following reports four Bradford district schools – including Oakbank – faced months of waiting before discovering when rebuilding work will start.

Exactly one year ago, ministers pledged a private finance initiative (PFI) scheme would be started to rebuild or revamp the four schools “within the next year”.

However, a shortlist of bidders was announced only three weeks ago – and there is no date set for announcing the winner, or for the work to get under way.

Treasury sources say the procurement process was moving ahead only very slowly, and that it could be the end of the year before the picture was clearer.

Originally, the Department for Education (DfE) suggested many PFI schemes would go to market in 2012.

Although ministers have vowed all 261 ‘priority’ schools will be rebuilt by 2017, work has started on only 29 of them.

Tristram Hunt MP, Labour’s education spokesman, this week claimed the Priority School Building Programme was “decidedly not a priority – limping along at a staggeringly slow pace”.

But a DfE spokesman insisted there was no delay, saying: “This is usual for any procurement programme. This one is running faster than many others.”

The Government last week announced the second wave of the Priority Schools Build-ing programme, worth £2 billion and due to start next year.

This time the rundown schools will be rebuilt with public cash, abandoning the private finance model blamed for the slow progress of the first wave.

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins welcomed the “significant” level of new funding.

He added: “The scheme will target funding where it is most needed. I look forward to Keighley and Ilkley getting its fair share of this investment.”

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