Exeter's brand new mega school hits more problems

A visual of what the completed Matford Brook Academy will look like
A visual of what the completed Matford Brook Academy will look like -Credit:Matford Brook Academy

Parents who had to contend with 'significant' construction issues delaying the opening of a new state-of-the-art Exeter 'all through' school last year are now facing another anxious wait for a competition date. Matford Brook Academy, located on the southern edge of Exeter within the new Haldon Reach development, had been due to open in September 2023.

Instead, problems with its foundations led the Department for Education (DfE) to announce just three months before welcoming its first intake that the building would not be ready in time. Parents were left frantically finding places for their children at other schools or sending them to a temporary setting a few miles away within St Luke's Church of England School.

Matford Brook Academy has been taken on by the Ted Wragg Trust as an all-through school for two to 16-year-olds. It opened at its temporary location last September with far fewer pupils than originally planned.

Read next:

The first intake this year was meant to be for nursery, preschool, reception and Year 7 pupils. Places were only offered to Year 7 due to space limitations at St Luke's, which comes under the trust's portfolio of schools. Other pupils instead enrolled at other schools in the area.

The trust has written to parents to inform them that following a routine inspection of the site in Trood Lane this month, further works are required along with additional compliance checks which is standard for rebuilding projects. As a 'precautionary measure' the feasibility of temporary accommodation is also being looked into.

⚠️ Want the latest Devon breaking news and top stories first? Click here to join our WhatsApp group. We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners. If you don’t like our community, you can check out any time you like. If you’re curious, you can read our Privacy Notice ⚠️

Parents have been assured a definitive answer will be given by June 13. The building currently remains in the hands of the DfE and their contractors.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We monitor construction of all new school buildings to ensure they are of high quality. Construction is ongoing at Matford Brook school, and we are in close contact with the local authority and the Ted Wragg Trust.”

Parents have also been informed by the trust this week that an acting headteacher has been appointed at Matford Brook Academy due to headteacher Emily Simpson-Horne being on long-term leave.

Matford Brook Academy headteacher Emily Simpson-Horne
Matford Brook Academy headteacher Emily Simpson-Horne -Credit:DevonLive

In a letter sent to parents on May 16 about the construction of the new school, Tim Rutherford, deputy CEO of the Ted Wragg Trust, and Hannah Rose, acting headteacher of Matford Brook Academy, said: "We have been so excited with the progress at the MBA site and want to thank you again for your continued support during this process. The DfE have told us that, ‘following a routine inspection of the site this month, they are required to carry out some further works at the school and additional compliance checks.

"This is standard at this stage. The DfE and their appointed contractors and wider team have been working hard. They do not know what, if any, impact this will have on the planned July handover.

"They wanted to reassure us that they are taking precautionary planning measures including looking at the feasibility of temporary accommodation on the site itself. They have said this is not due to them thinking it is not going to be ready but simply a process of ‘early notification’ and ‘precautionary planning’.

"We have asked for further information which we will share as we receive it. We do not want to cause any undue worry, however, as we know many members of the local community have been involved in the building work and furnishing for our new home, we thought it best to tell everyone so that there are no unhelpful rumours or unnecessary worries.

"We are so excited to be on site at MBA soon and still hoping this will be July for staff and September for pupils. We are grateful for your continued support."

They added: "We will update you as we receive information but hope to be able to offer more reassurance by Monday, June 13, at the latest."

Matford Brook Academy
Matford Brook Academy in June 2023 -Credit:DevonLive

When the project is finished, the two-storey and three-storey building will provide space for 59 nursery places, 630 primary pupils and 750 secondary students and the opportunity for extensive community use. In 2016, the Ted Wragg Trust's bid to open the school in the Teignbridge development was granted by the Department for Education.

Covering approximately 9,196sqm, the state-of-the-art building will include a fully equipped theatre with raked seating, activity studio, spacious learning and resources centre and two recreational halls in addition to a dedicated dining hall.

The extensive sport facilities include a traditionally built four-court sports hall, a large 3G artificial turf all-weather flood-lit pitches, netball courts, a full-sized adult football pitch, a cricket square, a full-sized adult rugby pitch, 400m athletics track and field provision, an outdoor learning environment including woodland area and a four-court multi-use games area (MUGA) parking and amenity space.