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Mercia Academy in Newhall evacuated and closed over ‘safety concerns’ | #schoolsaftey

A Derbyshire secondary school has been evacuated and closed over safety concerns related to the building. Mercia Academy, formerly William Allitt, in Sunnyside, Newhall, was evacuated and closed on Friday, November 17, due to the issues.

Parents and carers claim the school, which has 588 students, has been short on detail about the situation. It has told parents and carers that it aims to have some “supervised study space” from tomorrow (Tuesday, November 21), but remains closed today (Monday, November 20) and will remain closed “until further notice”.

A letter sent to parents and carers, sent on Saturday, written by principal Jackie Cooper and Falcon Education chief executive Angela Barry, says: “After discussion and in consultation with the Department for Education, the decision was taken yesterday afternoon to close Mercia Academy with immediate effect, and until further notice. This is because of safety concerns related to the building. While we know this is extremely inconvenient, the health and safety of our students, staff and all those who use the buildings is of paramount importance to us and we will not compromise on that.

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“We know you understand this but we of course apologise for the disruption we know the closure will cause. We will undertake further tests and surveys and the education of all students will be via remote learning.”

The school has been a high priority for a complete demolition and rebuild for the best part of a decade but funding for a wholesale refurbishment has not been forthcoming, despite appeals to central Government, and there have been funding cutbacks at Derbyshire County Council. In early 2022, the first £7 million phase of £20 million works to demolish and rebuild the school made it into the county council budget and work is said to be progressing behind the scenes but action on-site has not started.

When it included the school rebuild in its budget, the council had detailed it was “housed in a building that is close to the end of its economic life and requires replacement” with its “poor condition” impacting its popularity and ability to be rated at least “good” by Ofsted. Photos shared online appear to show significant mould in an area of the school, exposed by deteriorating wall panels.

Mould on a wall in the Mercia Academy/William Allitt(Image: Contributed)

A Mercia Academy parent talking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service says there is widespread mould and damp in the school, with numerous buckets in place to catch water from leaking ceilings, and there are allegedly mushrooms growing in one area due to the disrepair and exposed asbestos. When the LDRS visited the 1960s school in late 2018 there were also many leaking ceilings, patches of damp and widespread disrepair, to the extent that the roof was propped up with beams encased in panels within classrooms.

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