Calls for greater transparency over ‘unsafe’ schools

  • 30th January 2024

Shadow Education Secretary, Bridget Phillipson, has called for greater transparency over the total cost of repairs at three schools which were declared unsafe shortly after being built.

Haygrove School in Bridgwater, Somerset; Sir Frederick Gibberd School in Harlow, Essex; and Buckton Fields Primary in Northamptonshire, were built by construction company Caledonian Modular, which went into administration in March 2022.

But shortly after opening, the buildings, which cost £45m, were declared unsafe and unfit for purpose.

Now, Phillipson has tabled a number of written parliamentary questions demanding information on the cost of rectifying the issues, as well as who will foot the bill.

She asks the Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, what estimate the department has made of the cost to the public purse of the (a) construction, (b) demolition, and (c) reconstruction of the buildings; and whether it has taken steps to recover costs incurred to the public purse as a result of poor workmanship.

She said: “This is scandalous. We haven’t been told exactly what has happened, or who is responsible.

“We also haven’t had an exact figure for the cost of the rebuild.

“They should provide that figure, because it is the taxpayer footing the bill, and they need to consider all options in getting this money back.”

Responding to the questions, Damian Hinds, the Conservative’s Minister of State for Education, said: “The department publishes contract values when available on Contracts Finder.

“In addition, the department publishes capital costs for all free schools on GOV.UK once all works are completed and costs are finalised.

“Once at that point, the department will action this for these three schools and anticipates that may be some time in the future.

“The department is currently progressing a range of legal and contractual mechanisms for recovering costs.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said it had commissioned surveys into the buildings after defects were found in all three and after two schools in Cornwall built by the same contractors had to be demolished before construction was completed.

“There are numerous problems associated with poor workmanship which will impact the longevity of the buildings”, the department said.

Pupils are currently being taught in alternative accommodation.

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