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Scandalous waste of money as safety fears shut six new schools | UK | News UK News

Hundreds of children face chaos at the start of their school year after safety fears over classrooms built by a failed construction firm.

At least six institutions have had to close after defects including cracked walls, flooding and mould were reported.

Pupils of at least two sites have been warned the start of the new term will be delayed until alternative classes can be found.

The crisis has developed after ­receivers were called in to run Nottinghamshire-based building company Caledonian Modular.

Department for Education officials had awarded tens of millions of pounds of contracts to the company.

Caledonian Modular used a new building technique in which sections or modules were built off-site
then moved into place after they were finished.

Yesterday, the DfE said officials were aware of the situation and were trying to limit disruption.

Earlier this year, a report by education unions claimed children and teachers were in danger through under-­investment in school premises. GMB, Unite and the National Association of Head Teachers said nearly £11.5billion of repairs were needed after a 50 per cent plunge in capital spending on schools since 2009.

Sir Frederick Gibberd College, Essex – one of the schools to have had plans thrown into turmoil – warned families this week of the delayed start to the autumn term.

The Harlow site, which has room for 440 students, was closed on advice from DfE officials concerned about “structural safety”. Staff and pupils claimed they had seen large cracks in walls, flooding and black mould around the £29million complex.

Helena Mills, chief executive of BMAT Education, which runs the school, said pupils are likely to be back by September 18. Meanwhile, parents of students at Buckton Fields Primary, Northants, were told their school, built by Caledonian Modular, would close over the DfE’s safety concerns.

The department ordered an inspection after two Caledonian Modular schools in Cornwall had to be demolished before being reconstructed.

Newquay Primary and Launceston Primary were dismantled. And a third project – Sky Academy – was suspended before work started.

Meanwhile, Haygrove School in Bridgwater, Somerset, also warned parents that its term may start late after its main building closed.

A letter sent on Friday stated: “The DfE has promised us that it will be providing high-quality temporary accommodation on the school site as soon as possible. However, we do not yet know when this will be ­delivered and are seeking urgent clarification from the DfE.”

Caledonian Modular, based in Newark, was awarded contracts as part of the DfE’s £3billion “modular” framework, which intended to fast-track school construction.

However, it went into administration last year after making a loss of nearly £3million on a turnover of £45million.

Administrators Alvarez & Marshall sold the firm to another construction company, JRL Group, which took on its 200 employees.

The DfE said: “Following surveys conducted at our request, we have identified concerns with building work carried out by a specific contractor that is no longer in business.

“We are working closely with school leaders on temporary ­measures to safely accommodate pupils and minimise the disruption to their learning.”

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This notice was published: 2023-08-23 21:01:00

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