Newhall: School shut over health and safety concerns | #schoolsaftey

  • By Sonia Kataria, Will Jefford and Eddie Bisknell
  • BBC News

Image caption,

Mercia Academy in Derbyshire has been closed with immediate effect

More than 500 students are learning remotely after their school was closed over health and safety concerns.

Mercia Academy, formerly William Allitt School, in Sunnyside, Newhall, Derbyshire, was shut on Friday.

In a letter to parents and carers, it said the school would close with “immediate effect” due to issues with the building.

The school said the health and safety of students and staff was of “paramount importance”.

Falcon Education Academies Trust, which sponsors the school, said students would take part in remote learning “until further notice”.

The trust’s chief executive, Angela Barry, said in a letter to parents that a number of tests were taking place to assess defects and issues within the building.

It will look at electrics, the roof structure and whether or not there is mould.

Tests will also examine if asbestos is present in the building, but results have been clear so far, Ms Barry said.

Image caption,

Lloyd Stacey has a daughter at the school

Parent Lloyd Stacey said he was frustrated because parents had been “kept in the dark”.

“Everyone we ring, from the board of education to the Falcon Academy, to the school – we can’t get answers to why has it been closed and how long for?” he said.

Ms Barry said she was hoping test results would come back at end of this week or the start of the next, at which point parents would be updated.

“I want to reiterate that we do sincerely understand the concerns that you have, and we have great sympathy,” she said.

“It was an extremely difficult decision to close the school, but we hope you understand that the health and safety of our students, staff, and all those who use the building is paramount.”

For over a decade, the school has been earmarked for demolition, with a new building to be built in its place, but funding issues have delayed the move.

‘Working hard’

In 2022, Derbyshire County Council included an initial £7m for the new school in its budget with preliminary work taking place in recent months.

The authority said while it was not directly responsible for the school’s operation, it was offering whatever support it could.

Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, who has supported plans for a new school, said it was hoped that enough of the site would be deemed safe to allow children taking GCSEs to be able to go back “as soon as possible”.

“I cannot tell you how hard Mrs Cooper [the academy principal] and team have worked to try and make this happen and their number one aim is to get back to face-to-face teaching as soon as possible,” she said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The safety of pupils is our top priority. We are working closely with the school to minimise any disruption to education and make sure that pupils can safely return to school as soon as possible.”

The spokesperson confirmed the closure was not related to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

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