Now Harlowbury School in Old Harlow closes due to safety concerns

Education / Sun 3rd Sep 2023 at 08:16am

A PRIMARY school in Old Harlow has joined the growing list of school buildings in Harlow that has decided to closed due to safety concerns.

The chair of the Templefields Multi-Academy Trust, Robert Smith, which oversees the running of Harlowbury Primary School on Watlington Road, has written to all parents and carers.

Mr Smith said:

“You may have seen recent media coverage regarding Reinforced Autoclaved   Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and its use in educational settings. RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete; because it is weaker than regular concrete, concerns have been raised about its long-term durability. Department for Education (DfE) has recently changed its guidance to education settings on the management of RAAC to take a more precautionary approach and as a result areas in affected spaces may be         vacated.

The Department for Education at 12pm on 31st August 2023 informed Harlowbury Primary School that it may need to close with immediate effect pending a government briefing at 9.00am on 1st September 2023. 

This instruction followed a change to the DFE policy from 31st August 23, with regards to schools that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete).is present in the building. The change in guidance is precautionary in nature, and only affects education premises where the presence of RAAC has been confirmed. DfE is offering us access to surveyors who are helping us do these checks quickly.

Any contingency plans will prioritise the continuation of education and ensure that, any impact on children is kept to an absolute minimum. 

The Trust and Local Governing Body were made aware of RAAC as a building material in June from a BBC news article following a DfE survey of schools.  We immediately requested a technical survey of the main school building to ensure the safety of all children and staff which took place on the 12th of July 2023.   

The DfE appointed surveyor confirmed that reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was present in the roof of the main building and that, sometime in the past substantial remedial works to ensure the safety of the roof had been put in place. The report issued confirmed that the building was safe to use and advised that the Trust and school should carry out regular checks on the roof panels until leaving the Watlington Road Site in 2025. 

Yesterday at 12pm the School and Trust were advised in a meeting that the  DfE policy on RAAC had been revised and DfE are no longer able to verify the structural safety of the school buildings without external validation from a structural engineer,.

They have instructed the Trust and school with the support of Robert Halfon MP and Esxex County Council to ensure the school is safe for children and staff to attend – through an external appointed Structural Engineer Visit to confirm the DFE findings in their survey from July. 

Please be assured, this situation is not of the Trust’s or school’s making. The Trust have agreed to follow DfE’s instruction from 31st August to ensure the safety of all children and staff. 

Even though this is a situation which is outside of our control, we are incredibly sorry for the anxiety to which may impact our families and our staff. We are one of over 50 schools in Essex that have been affected by the change in the DfE policy to RAAC. The new guidance was issued at 15:42pm on 31st August 2023 RAAC Guidance 31/8/23There is also a parental information link available here

While this is an emotional matter and not having answers to what will happen next week, we know, will make the situation more stressful please be assured that Templefields Multi-Academy Trust and Harlowbury Primary School are working as hard as we can to resolve this with Essex County Council and the DfE as quickly as possible. 

All parents and carers are invited  to attend a meeting kindly hosted in Fawbert and Barnard’s Hall on Monday 4th September 2023 at 5pm. If you are unable to attend but have any questions, please email them to [email protected] and we will answer them at the meeting. The meeting will also be recorded, and a copy made available afterwards. 

The autumn term for the whole school shall start on a later date than earlier published by the school to enable us to work with the independent structural engineer.

An update on arrangements shall be communicated to parents and staff early next week once we have had confirmation from the independent structural engineer that the substantial structural remediation work deems the building to be low risk. 

Templefields Multi- Academy Trust and Harlowbury are committed to delivering the very best education to pupils; rest assured that the safety of children and staff is of paramount importance to all concerned. 

Thank you for your understanding.

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3 Comments for Now Harlowbury School in Old Harlow closes due to safety concerns:

Nick Gunning
2023-09-03 10:38:20

nearly all Harlow schools were built in the relevant period. Not only roof panels, but also walls with visible signs of crumbling will be found. These problems have been known for at least ten years- roof panels falling into swimming pools, for examples in one case. The LEAs had much too close a relationship with the builders, plant hire, speculators and they're predominantly run by one party! They've known but haven't designed a strategy. If your school has a 50s/70s designed curved roof that might well be a clue. Since all these 'trusts' were allowed to acquire or schools, gimmicks and imported, mainly US style marketing has dominated. Building safety is not the priority. Now Head Teachers and Staff are scrabbling round to make do and mend, without the budget, while the government is trying to blame the opposition.

2023-09-03 12:26:05

Crumbling Schools; crumbling roads; crumbling NHS. Welcome to Crumbling Britain after 13 years of Tory rule everybody. #CutsHaveConsequences

Mrs S Copues
2023-09-03 18:19:51

These buildings have nothing to do with politics the labour and conservatives are as bad as each other, let’s hope the government fixes it and then all will be fine, my husband has built for both and they are built as cheap as possible whatever government is in power

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