Hoping to rebound from coronavirus, UK PM Johnson sets out school building plan

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Watlington

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans for a 10-year rebuilding programme for schools in England on Monday, part of government efforts to help Britain "bounce back" from the coronavirus crisis.

Johnson, whose popularity has flagged over his government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, will make a speech on Tuesday to set out an infrastructure programme, allowing him to return to election pledges that helped him win a large majority.

Much of the new spending will be targeted at those areas in northern and central England that had traditionally supported the main opposition Labour Party, but where many voters backed the governing Conservatives at last year's election.

Rebuilding schools, which have suffered over the years from government spending cuts, will be his first step, with funding targeted at the buildings in the worst condition in England, especially in northern and central regions.

"As we bounce back from the pandemic, it's important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission," Johnson said in a statement.

The rebuilding programme will start in 2020-2021 with the first 50 projects and will be supported by more than 1 billion pounds ($1.23 billion) in funding, the government said, adding that 560 million pounds and 200 million pounds would go to repairs and upgrades to schools and further education colleges respectively this year.

It said the 560 million pounds for school repairs and upgrades was on top of more than 1.4 billion pounds in school condition funding committed in 2020-21, and that the 200 million would bring forward plans announced by the finance minister.

"This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings so that every child gets a world-class education," Johnson said.


($1 = 0.8106 pounds)


(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Frances Kerry)