No extra funding expected before General Election for North Tyneside schools with weak concrete

Fordley Primary School in Annitsford sparked the concerns after a small piece of concrete fell from the ceiling in December last year
-Credit: (Image: The Chronicle)

Extra funding for four North Tyneside schools disrupted by structural problems is not expected to arrive before the election.

Following Rishi Sunak’s General Election announcement, North Tyneside Council does not expect a financial resolution from the Department for Education (DfE) for four schools afflicted with concrete issues, unrelated to RAAC, before July 4. Hazlewood Primary, Fordley Primary, Grasmere Academy and Churchill Community College have all been at the centre of a months-long saga, having experienced disruption due to the discovery of weak and brittle concrete in some buildings.

A partial ceiling collapse at Fordley Primary, in Annitsford, in December last year, sparked structural inspections and the subsequent closure or partial closure of the three other schools in February. Despite a period of remote learning for some, all children in the affected schools have returned to face-to-face learning, although many are being taught in alternative settings either on or off-site.

Since then, there have been calls for the DfE to find additional cash to fund both short and long-term solutions to the plight of the schools from parents, trade unions, councillors and MPs.

Jon Ritchie, director of resources at North Tyneside Council, said: “Our conversations with the Department for Education are continuing and while we don’t expect a decision ahead of the General Election, we remain committed to exploring solutions for the impacted schools both for right now and for longer-term remediation.”

North Tyneside Council has met with criticism for its handling of the problem, with parents at Hazlewood Primary School calling for the speedy installation of modular units and the improvement of temporary toilet facilities. The parents also raised concerns about the suitability of an on-site marquee, currently being used as an alternative classroom and school site.

Trade union GMB also protested outside the local authority’s Cobalt HQ on May 16, against reduced access to some practical lessons, and clubs for Year 7 pupils from Churchill Community College being temporarily taught at the Business Exchange. In addition, the union also criticised the children’s inability to access hot meals for a short period.

A spokesperson from North Tyneside Council’s Labour Party administration said: “The Tories have dithered and delayed making a decision and now, we won’t know until after the General Election if the Department for Education will provide the funding. Meanwhile, regardless of the national funding, in North Tyneside, we’ll get on with making the right decisions for our pupils' education.”

The Department for Education was approached for comment.