HEADTEACHERS across Cheshire are facing a £30m bill in a bid to bring their schools up to scratch with new anti-disability legislation.
Schools have been told to start budgeting for improvements - which could include ramps, parking spaces, lifts and toilets - from the start of this financial year.
However, the move could leave many schools out of pocket as annual Government cash to support regular maintenance projects may not be enough to pay for the added changes.
Each Cheshire school has been presented with its own audit report highlighting the changes needed at their site and how much the alterations will cost.
One high school in the county has been named by the Local Education Authority as one of the top schools in need of disability changes and is facing a massive £390,000 alteration bill.
Special schools are not immune from the scheme and one school in Chester is said to be facing a £50,000 bill.
The audits, produced in light of the Disability Discrimination Act which came into force last September, have been produced following a series of private consultations with headteachers and governors across Cheshire.
However, many schools have refused to reveal the size of their alteration bills.
Ray Baker, school development manager for Cheshire County Council, administered the latest string of consultations and admits schools could soon be facing some difficult budget decisions.
'These improvements could include such things as disabled parking spaces at schools, ramps, disabled toilets and lift provision,' he said.
'There are many old school buildings that were not designed for people in wheelchairs or the visually impaired.
'The whole country now has to grapple with this new legislation, including shops and restaurants.'
Mr Baker says annual Government grants to schools will help to cover costs, but warned that schools will also have to decide which repairs come first.
'It is an added difficulty for schools. It's a question of trying to balance your priorities and managing different spending decisions,' he said.
'There is no end date as to when these repairs need to be done by. It's a question of doing what is reasonable.'
Phil Mottershead, chairman of the Cheshire Association of Secondary Headteachers, says the onset of the legislation is an added pressure for schools but will be for the good of everyone.
'The LEA has told schools what the issues are and schools now need to formulate with their governors what their priorities should be,' he said.
'There is a lot of fairly minor stuff that schools can be doing, such as paying for new signage.'
Mr Mottershead, headteacher of Ruskin High School in Crewe, says annual Government cash will not cover most alterations.
He said: 'Most of these costs will have to be absorbed from the local authority routine maintenance budget.
'The Government does give schools direct capital funding, but schools will have to live within the bounds of reality.'
Asked whether the changes were an added pressure, Mr Mottershead said: 'There is so much added pressure.
'Because the Act came into force last September, we have to be seen to be moving in the right direction.'
Despite extra pressures on schools, Mr Mottershead hopes the changes will help many disabled children in the county.
He said: 'Everyone supports the idea at the end of the day. It will help to keep disabled youngsters in their local communities.'