‘Awful... just awful.’
That was the damning verdict from the country’s schools boss as he was shown round the dilapidated All Saints National Academy school in Bloxwich.
The Conservative Schools minister Nick Gibb was visiting the academy along with Walsall and Labour MP David Winnick after the school had a bid for £1.3 million of funding turned down.
Mr Winnick had invited Mr Gibb to view the school after having raised the issue with him several times, as well as mentioning the school’s condition in the House of Commons.
Headteacher Michelle Slymn explained to Mr Gibb how parts of the school are in good condition but others require extensive work as he was heard muttering ‘awful’ and ‘just awful’ during the tour.
He was shown exposed wiring, cracked and damp walls, and toilets that require pupils to crouch down to use as the school outlined its case for funding.
Speaking to the Express & Star at the end of the visit, the Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP said: “It is quite clear that the fabric of the building has deteriorated quite significantly.
“We saw open drains, pipework and wires that were exposed, roofs that had been patched up with stuffing and we saw lots of damp in the walls around the place.
“It is a lovely old building that we need to preserve and it is quite clear that a significant amount of money needs to be spent on this building.
“We have a very strict criteria for how you access funds and I know the school had a bid put in but sadly rejected for the Condition Improvement Fund.
“However they are going to bid again and I wish them the very best.
“It is quite clear to me as a minister that some of the things I have seen are unacceptable in a school and we have to tackle it.
“Every year there is a new competition for the fund.
“They have been given some advice from our officials on how to present the bid in the most effective way.
“David Winnick the MP has been very helpful. He has raised it in the House of Commons, he has been to see me and he has brought a delegation to see me.
“We have been discussing how the school can be successful with its bid next time.”
The school had its funding bid rejected earlier this year, meaning it will have to wait until the end of the year until it can try again for funding.
Mr Winnick, who represents Walsall North, admitted the time frame was ‘frustrating’ and questioned as to whether members of government would send their children to ‘schools in this state’.
He said: “The wait is frustrating to say the least but it was not suggested that the ministerial visit would find a different course although I wish it would have.
“I would make this comment as well, I doubt the minister has seen a school building in such a state and all the more reason there is so much resentment on my part and the school authority’s that the bid was not successful.
“As I said in the House of Commons, how many members of the cabinet, how many members of government and indeed how many members of parliament would send their children to schools in this state?
“It is very sad and all the more reason why I thought it would be necessary to have a debate in the House of Commons and get the minister to come and see for himself.
“In my debate the speaker of the house said to the minister ‘you can rest assured that Mr Winnick will go on and on about this and to some extent’ and I will!”
As she was walking round with the delegation that included a member from Mr Gibb’s office, headteacher Ms Slymn spoke passionately about the school and its pupils.
She said: “Children come here and they think it is normal, that is what upsets me.
“The children deserve better, it is the one chance they have got.”.
She added: “Some of the children have got issues which they need support for but they just are not getting it because we do not have the funds.”
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