THOUSANDS of children will be taught in mobile classrooms now that the government has scrapped a scheme to carry out 'desperately needed repairs' on dilapidated school buildings.
The decision by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition to cut future funding for the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has been described as the 'worst case scenario' by one politician because Harrow Council will be unable to apply for millions of pounds to upgrade the borough's outdated education infrastructure.
Councillor Brian Gate (Labour), responsible for schools, said: "We wanted to bid for funding in the next two years to carry out desperately needed repairs on a number of school buildings throughout the borough. This will no longer be possible."
A council report from March 2009 about the potential BSF bid, estimated the necessary redevelopment would cost £210million.
The strain put on the ageing buildings will be compounded by a change to the age of transfer. That means from the start of the forthcoming academic year, year seven children (11 and 12-year-olds) will no longer come under the junior school system, instead forming part of secondary school education, as in the rest of the country.
Consequently, two year groups totalling 4,000 pupils will graduate to high schools at the same time in September, rather than just year eights (12 and 13-year-olds), which had been the case until now.
To cope with the influx, Canons High School, Harrow High School, Hatch End High School, Bentley Wood High School for Girls, Nower Hill High School and Rooks Heath College For Business and Enterprise, all won planning permission last year for extra mobile classrooms.
But these, as all the schools' applications explained, were only ever considered to be 'a temporary measure pending BSF investment'. It was envisaged that within five to 10 years, permanent buildings would be built.
Sue Maguire, headteacher of Hatch End High School, in Headstone Lane, said: "We have 300 extra students joining, and the main body of the school desperately needs rebuilding."
The current rebuild of Whitmore High School, in Porlock Avenue, West Harrow, which is due to open in September, is unaffected by the coalition cuts because it had already secured BSF money prior to education secretary Michael Gove's House of Commons announcement on July 5.
Labour MP for Harrow West, Gareth Thomas, said he is 'depressed' about the bleak outlook for investment.
"Not only do we need to continue to upgrade, but there is also an extra demand for the necessary funds due to the changes to the age of transfer."
However, Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP for Harrow East, believes the borough's schools are adequately equipped to handle the age of transfer change.
He said: "We have written to all headteachers offering help and assistance, and have not received representations from any school in relation to issue of temporary accommodation."
Councillor Christine Bednell (Con), opposition spokeswoman for schools, said: "We haven't lost anything because we didn't have anything. There is no problem with accommodation for the extra year group that the high schools are taking on."