Harlow school delays teaching again over safety work | #schoolsaftey

  • By Simon Dedman
  • Political reporter, Essex

Image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

Image caption,

The school’s building contractor, Caledonian Modular, went into administration in March 2022

A secondary school that closed its main building over safety risks has told parents teaching will be delayed again.

The school in Harlow has said pupils cannot return on 30 October because of government improvement works on site.

The latest delay would allow “time to improve and upgrade” facilities ahead of the winter, the school said.

“We do not take this decision lightly, but it is clear that the safeguarding and welfare of the children must come first,” said Helena Mills, chief executive of the Burnt Mill Academy Trust (BMAT), which runs SFG.

Ms Mills said she would update parents and carers by “the end of next week” on when teaching would resume.

The temporary Portaloos are understood to be one of the facilities being improved.

Image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

Image caption,

Kerrie Black, who has a child in year 11 at the school, said in August she was “worried for my son’s future” because of the disruption

On 14 September, SFG announced that pupils had returned to temporary buildings on site, although Year 7 pupils were transported via bus to BMAT sister school Mark Hall Academy.

While teaching for Year 8-11 pupils remains unclear following the latest announcement, Ms Mills says Year 7 children will continue learning at Mark Hall.

‘Massive disruption’

More “substantial” Portakabin buildings were supposed to be built in mid-November, but these are not due to be fully operational until the end of August 2024.

Parents have been told this delay is because “supply chains are restricted and there is high national demand for temporary classrooms”.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The safety of staff and pupils is paramount and we are working closely with the trust to urgently rectify these issues and to minimise disruption to learning over the winter.”

Harlow Council’s former Labour leader Mark Ingall, a parent of two children at SFG, said there had been “massive disruption to learning”.

He said he did not know how long he or his wife would have to take off work to be around for his children but he added: “I think it is clear the management of the school have done the best they possibly can.”

Image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

Image caption,

Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow was launched in 2019 but did not open its site to pupils until 2021

A BMAT spokesperson said “online learning programmes” were being put in place as a “back-up” but there were no plans to use them yet.

“We hope to see our pupils back in school as soon as possible,” they added.

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