As you may know, the government is spending a huge pile of our cash on its Building Schools for the Future programme. At an estimated cost of £45bn it aims to rebuild or refurbish all of England’s secondaries by 2021, with a separate £7 billion fund for tackling half the nations’ primaries.
So that's an official estimate of £52bn, which on BOM's usual overspend factor translates into a final bill of about £70bn (see this blog for overview of public sector project overspends).
Naturally, one of the things the government claims we'll get out of this massive spend is more eco-friendly schools: "a key goal is to improve the carbon footprint of new schools by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent".
But according to the TES, that's so much... er, hot air.
Roderic Bunn, a consultant specialising in building performance, has compared one of the new eco-schools with a classic from the Victorian era. And yes, you guessed, the Victorian schoolhouse performs just as well as the brand new one: their carbon footprints are virtually identical.
But in terms of long-term maintenance, the Victorian school wins hands down, with its robust traditional technology that everyone understands. In contrast:
"[The new school's] bio-fuel boilers, solar water heating and rainwater recovery systems are proving more demanding. The application of such sustainable technology is no guarantee of permanent good performance. It can put school administrators on a management and maintenance treadmill that they are neither trained for nor expecting."
Describing the commissars' schools energy benchmarks as "dangerously out of date and flaky", Mr Bunn adds:
"Not that Government, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) or the Carbon Trust would know this. No one in the education sector is carrying out a programme of post-occupancy assessments to determine whether £45 billion of taxpayer’s money is actually improving the carbon performance of the schools estate."
Now who would ever have guessed that the government would shovel vast amounts of cash into a grandiose project, without even bothering to check it delivered what they claimed?
Here's a prediction: by 2021, the first of these new eco-schools will be in as bad a state of repair as the appalling 1960s buildings they're replacing.
PS The pic shows Pimlico School, built by the GLC in the 60s, and long revered by beard scratching types for its bold, stark, raw, brutalist style. And long reviled by the infortunates banged up there for for its floor to ceiling glass windows and large expanses of bare, unadorned concrete making the school a freezing cold box in winter and a sweltering greenhouse in summer. It's now been demolished under Building Schools For the Future, presumably replaced by a collection of bio-fuel boilers, solar water heating and rainwater recovery systems.