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Mistley parents told school building will close over safety risks | #schoolsaftey

  • By Peter Walker and Matt Knight
  • BBC News, Essex

Image source, Family handout

Image caption,

Georgina, pictured with Tyllar and his father Marcus, said she was “scared” about the future

A primary school has told parents its building is likely to close indefinitely over safety risks and is urging families to find alternatives.

Children from Mistley Norman Church of England (CoE) primary have been taught in classrooms at another school in north Essex since April.

The school ceiling panels contain a lightweight concrete, putting it at risk of “gradual or sudden” collapse.

Parents told the BBC they were worried, stressed and “scared”.

“It’s bleak,” said Georgina, whose five-year-old son Tyllar is at the school.

“It has caused so much stress, heartache and upset, and I will do anything to keep that school and retain some stability for my son.”

The 32-year-old said she would need to learn to drive if she had to transport Tyllar to an alternative school.

Image source, Family handout

Image caption,

Rebecca said walking her son to school was important for Teddy’s father and his mental health

The Department for Education (DfE) asked schools in March last year to check their buildings for any suspected reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

The material was used in the roofs, floors and walls in public buildings between the 1960s and 1980s, and has an expected lifespan of 30 years.

Image caption,

The roof at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, has been propped up because of RAAC material in its ceiling

Mistley Norman, which currently caters for 96 children aged two to 11, has been renting classrooms at Lawford CoE primary and providing transport for the approximate six-mile round trip.

The school said it expected to continue renting classrooms in September.

Rebecca said her family, who do not own a car, moved house so they were a stone’s throw from Mistley Norman, and so her partner, who struggles with mental health issues, could walk five-year-old son Teddy to the gates.

“This is the one thing he does for his child that makes him feel like he has a purpose, taking his child to school and picking his child up from school, and it’s been taken away,” said Rebecca.

The 44-year-old chef said a teaching assistant, who has worked there for 18 years, told her on Wednesday it felt “like her family has been torn away from her”.

Image caption,

The school is transporting pupils to rented classrooms at another site three miles away

Mother-of-four Jodie said she was in the process of applying for four alternative schools.

“There are lots of parents who are worried and stressed, and don’t know the future for their children,” she said.

“Hopefully we can try to save the school.”

‘Difficult situation’

Emma Wigmore, chief executive of the Diocese of Chelmsford Vine Schools Trust, which runs Mistley Norman, said the company did not have the £1.9m needed for remedial works.

“We are still exploring funding streams with the DfE to see if there is a possibility of covering the repair,” she said.

“We want to thank the parents and carers of Mistley Norman pupils for their patience and understanding throughout this difficult situation.”

Hockley Primary School, in south Essex near Southend-on-Sea, has also closed its buildings because of RAAC and is renting classrooms elsewhere.

The Academies Enterprise Trust, which runs the Hockley school and hopes to reopen in September, said it was “determined to make this experience as positive as it can for the children”.

A DfE spokesperson said it was in “regular contact” with the Academies Enterprise Trust, regarding the Hockley school, to “minimise the impact” and “ensure continuity of education”.

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