Structural bolts 'missing' from Exeter's new mega school

-Credit: (Image: Submitted)
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)

The ongoing saga of 'significant' construction issues delaying the opening of Exeter's huge new all-through school for two to 16-year-olds is now claimed to have been impacted by 'missing' structural bolts. 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 informed earlier this month that a routine inspection of the site in Trood Lane is being carried out.

However, they were advised further works were required, along with additional compliance checks which is standard for rebuilding projects. A source has shared photographs with DevonLive of structural bolts that had been found to be missing.

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The source claims 'problems have been found all over the place'. The DfE has declined to comment after DevonLive sent it the images and asked for more details.

The school will be run by the Ted Wragg Trust when it is handed over by the DfE. The trust said in a letter to parents earlier this month that it still hoped that staff would be on the new school site in July ready for when pupils arrive in September.

It said it hoped to update parents on progress by Monday, June 13, at the latest. 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.

Structural bolts which are claimed to be 'missing' within Exeter's all-through school Matford Brook Academy
Structural bolts which are claimed to be 'missing' within Exeter's all-through school Matford Brook Academy -Credit:Submitted

A DfE spokesperson said earlier this month: “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.”

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: "They [DfE] 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."

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

Matford Brook Academy opened last September in temporary setting a few miles away within St Luke's Church of England School with far fewer pupils than originally planned. The first intake was meant to be for nursery, preschool, reception and Year 7 pupils.

Places were only been able to be offered for Year 7 due to space limitations at St Luke's, which comes under the trust's portfolio of schools. Other pupils have instead enrolled at other schools in the area.

Only around half of the initially enrolled Year 7 pupils moved to the new site after it was confirmed the school in Trood Lane would not be ready to move into last year. Out of an initial 107 placements awarded in Year 7, the number of pupils registered in September 2023 was 61, with space for 64 pupils in total.