The Government has been accused of prioritising tax cuts over classrooms after it announced a ministerial inquiry into the cost of school building projects.

“The coalition Government has inherited a school property system bordering on crisis,” Education Minister Erica Stanford said as she made the announcement at a post-Cabinet press conference yesterday afternoon.

Twenty projects have been paused, while a further 350 — in stages ranging from design to pre-construction — could be scaled down or scrapped.

“It is deeply concerning that many of these projects, years in the planning, were not underpinned by a value-for-money approach from the beginning,” she said.

“Some were mere weeks away from shovels in the ground, even though the funding available hadn’t been managed well enough to meet what schools understood had been approved.

“This is disruptive to teaching and learning and deeply unfair for schools to have these expectations raised, to be let down due to poor processes.”

Sommerville Specialist School in Auckland, which works with children with intellectual and physical disabilities, is among the schools facing uncertainty amid the inquiry.

The special education school has been waiting two decades for their facilities to be upgraded.

Johnston told 1News they’ve been left with leaking roofs, rundown classrooms, and rotting buildings.

“You can smell the mould. There are roof leaks everywhere, there’s dampness in the walls, our floors are like waves in the ocean,” she said.

“We’ve got students that are very vulnerable with respiratory conditions. They need even temperatures to maintain seizure control.”

Johnston said they’re “desperate” and “beyond crisis point”.

“We’ve been promised a new school rebuild for 20 years; successive governments have made this promise to us.”

Newlands Intermediate School in Wellington has been bursting at the seams as they, too, wait for a fix.

“The school is in bad repair,” principal Angela Lowe said.

“The school needs some new buildings. Currently, we’re at 151 per cent capacity.”

Lowe said they had been hoping for a new building which was “going to make us a school of the 21st or 22nd century” but are now “all in limbo”.

“In fact, I don’t even know if I’m in limbo — I haven’t been told.”

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told reporters at the post-Cabinet press conference that the ballooning costs for schools rebuilds was due to mishandling by the previous government.

Luxon said it was down to “abysmal management and oversight which is what we’ve come to expect from the previous government, cost overruns, poor delivery of wasteful funding”.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the Government were told prior to last year’s election that they “had not allowed funding for regular business as usual cost increases across government”.

“They’re now claiming a crisis where there is none,” he said.

Labour’s education spokesperson Jan Tinetti said she didn’t understand “why National can’t take responsibility for them wanting to fund tax cuts now at the expense of kids’ classrooms”.

After decades of waiting as their buildings crumbled, Johnston said, “enough is enough”.

“The Ministry of Education and this Government need to press play on Sommerville’s rebuild — not pause.”

Reviewers are due to report back with their findings in three months.