The Haygrove story has been revealed to the general public in stages perhaps to minimise the effect on pupils, teachers and families. However, now that the full story is out we can assess the disastrous repercussions of what is happening. Caledonian Modular the firm responsible for the construction has gone bust therefore it cannot be sued for poor building. Labour Town Councillors have been taking to the Media to highlight this shoddy state of affairs. Cllr Irena Hubble, a teacher herself, says “We must assume the Dfe was responsible for hiring the firm in the first place. What does this say about their robust procedures for tendering such important projects? The pupils are now left high and dry with a staggered start, a compressed 4 day timetable and no cohesion as teaching is taking place across sites in the town and from 18 th September 2 year groups will be on the Bridgwater and Taunton College site in a dedicated area, fenced in and with their own on site catering facilities.The disruption and re-organisation for the school and families and now other organisations beggars belief, especially as there is no end date in sight. The last Labour government had a scheduled Schools for the Future budget. Chilton and Blake schools profited from this while Haygrove is now suffering the consequences of poor Tory management of State schools. A catastrophic failure in the education of our young people.”
Unanswered Questions -just chaotic results
Cllr Jacqui Solomon (Labour, Eastover) and a former teacher and former Haygrove pupil said “I think there are two bigger issues here. First ,the Building. Who signed off on the building? Why are they not culpable for the subsequent failures. What was the governor’s role in appointment of construction firm. If only Dfe who there is responsible for the contract, why was there no back up insurance? Why are tax payers going to be picking up the bill for a failed building, a temporary ‘high quality’ temporary set up and potentially another new school? Second, the Teaching How are they expecting to teach on different sites? Anyone attending Haygrove during the 70’s comprehensive transition would be aware of the impossible timetabling to ensure continuity of education. Teachers were either late or left early or on many occasions failed to attend at all? Are teaching staff going to be required to commute 2miles across town to deliver lessons on both sites? How will they deliver the full curriculum ? what will happen to the education of year 7, 8 and 9 while they are in limbo?”
Their Profit, Our Loss
Cllr Tim Mander (Labour, Westover) is the Bridgwater Town Council Property Portfolio Holder. He commented “I am amazed at the failure of the Department of Education to carry out proper due diligence not only on the company selected to construct the modular classroom buildings but also the design of the buildings method used. This represents a monumental failure and directly puts the heath and safety of young children at risk. State schools deserve better and it’s about time that this incompetent rotten to the core Conservative Government stepped aside to allow the election of a Labour Government who will place our children first both in terms of safe school accommodation and a healthy teaching environment”.
Mayor has his say
Cllr Mick Lerry, Mayor of Bridgwater is another ex teacher. Mick (Labour, Bridgwater Victoria) said “This is the time of year when pupils, parents and carers are preparing to return or start a new school. The sudden news of the state of the building at Haygrove School, will be of real concern and anxiety to all who work and study there. At the same time, we are hearing that there are many schools nationally that are facing closure, due to the nature of the concrete crumbling and ceilings falling in. Somerset Council has a responsibility to comply with the Civil Emergencies Act 2004 to make sure there is a response to the emergency at Haygrove School, to put in place emergency plans and business continuity. Let’s hope that the new arrangements for Haygrove School, allow for the delivery of the education service for pupils and teachers at the school. Building Schools for the Future did not continue in Bridgwater, after the renewal of Blake and Chilton school. Unfortunately, the new build at Haygrove by the insolvent company, has failed the pupils and learners at the school. Did the Depart for Education: ensure that (Haygrove School) can continue to exercise their functions in the event of an emergency. This duty relates to all functions, not just emergency response functions. Considering the record of the insolvent construction company, the answer is no. There is much work going on to make sure that education for pupils can continue, but many pupils would like to be in one place and part of the whole school, regarding their teaching and learning and extra-curricular activities. There also needs to be discussions with the Examination Boards for mitigation, if the pupils are educationally disadvantaged, which might mean more teachers for the school, during the education year. I know that many people in Bridgwater will be hoping for normality to be resumed as soon as possible, for the pupils at Haygrove School”.
Getting the ‘Commissioner’ in
Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater North & Central, Labour), Chair of Somerset Councils Children and Families scrutiny committee and Bridgwater councillor said:-“I am horrified by how long this has gone on, I know the head teacher and academy trust have been calling for government to take up their concerns with the new building for sometime now, concerns that were raised more than a year ago and the department for education (DfE) has been ignoring them! When specialist inspectors finally surveyed the work it was apparent that there were serious structural issues, due to the main contractor’s approach to the build. The main building of the school, A Block, will not be able to be used at the start of the school year and beyond. The block was constructed in 2020 by Caledonian who went into administration in March 2022, with the project delivered by the DfE. The school is an academy run by the Quantock Education Trust. Although Somerset Council had no input to the original build, officers from the council have been working with the school and trust to assist where necessary. I understand that as the building is unsafe to re-enter and therefore an immediate contingency is being put in place for the start of term. This will be in the form of marquees and temporary buildings providing 14 classrooms as well as space for office staff and dining. One year group will be taught at the Bridgwater and Taunton College site, with the buses that bring pupils in from outlying areas to Haygrove, will be used to take pupils to the college and back. I am concerned that the young people who had their education impacted through Covid and last years disruption need a stable learning environment, learning in a field in winter is not stable! With the extent of work needed to make the condemned building safe, and to erect the temporary accommodation, it will mean that the school will not be open to all pupils as planned on Monday 4th September. Year 11 will start on 11 September, Year 10 on 18 September (at the college site). A date for Year 7-9 will be announced when timescales are confirmed for the temporary arrangements to be on site. I have already been contact by parents, whose children are super worried about their GCSE’s as they are going into year 10, especially as these are the same young people impacted previously by Covid. I am considering calling the Regional schools commissioner (DfE representative in the SW) in to our next Scrutiny meeting to get some answers from DfE about how this could happen and what they plan to do for all pupils at the school.”
Building schools ‘for a profit’
Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) said “This is a week of bad news for Bridgwater. First the Bus Company ( ‘First’) close down our bus depot and then our schools start falling down around our ears. They demolished the old Quad building-which I went to in the 1970s – and that had been around for over 80 years then they replace it with something ‘modern’ and it collapses. Bridgwater really does need better than this. We know it’s the Tories to blame on both counts – it’s a disastrous tail end Government which pulled the last Labour governments ‘Building schools for the future’ programme and ditched any semblance of an integrated public transport system – that’s why we’re all at the mercy of rampant free enterprise. profits for some -achieved by cuts and shortcuts for the rest of us. Time for a change.”