Harlow MP Robert Halfon details results of “weekend holding talks” over SFG College

Education / Mon 23rd Oct 2023 at 05:52pm

A NUMBER of senior Conservative politicians led by Robert Halfon have issued a statement over the current situation regarding Sir Frederick Gibberd College (SFG).

Their statement comes following Friday’s announcement that the school will not be re-opening after half term (Mon Oct 30th) as well as the withering attack on his boss, Gillian Keegan by the headteacher of SFG, Dee Conlon.

Statement from Robert Halfon MP, Leader of Harlow Council and Cabinet Member for Education at Essex County Council

Robert Halfon MP said: “I read Headteacher Dee Conlon’s article in Your Harlow with dismay. She has every right to be angry as do the students and their families who have been affected by this situation. I am deeply sorry at the ongoing worry it is causing.

“Harlow residents and Your Harlow readers will know that since the unfortunate news about the structural issues with SFG was first published in the summer, I have worked continuously with the college, with the Trust and with the Department for Education to do everything in my power to support all those affected, ensure the safety of pupils and staff, and to establish interim measures to continue the face-to-face learning for pupils with as minimal disruption to their education as possible.

“On Friday, I also learned that following an independent safety inspection, the temporary accommodation structures would be closed over the coming week to enable critical upgrades and improvements to be made. Following meetings with the Department, the College leadership team had to make the difficult decision to close the temporary accommodation whilst these works are carried out. 

“I completely understand the deep levels of worry and frustration this news has caused to parents.

This is why I spent the weekend holding urgent talks with the Department, the College, and with Harlow District Council and Essex County Council to understand what happened, assess what help the local authorities can offer, and to put in place a swift action plan. 

“The Project Team at the Department is working at pace with the College to carry out the necessary building works to the temporary structures with the aim that pupils can return to the site as soon as possible after the half-term break. Year 7 pupils will not be affected and will return to school as normal with their lessons continuing with SFG staff at Mark Hall.

For years 8-11, I know that online learning materials have been provided and the College has asked parents to contact them immediately to secure a laptop and access to wifi to support students learning in this interim period. 

“The Department will be sending a further inspection team to the premises on Tuesday 24th October to assess the works being carried out. I will continue to work with the Minister responsible to represent the needs of the school community to press for the construction of the longer-term accommodation to begin as soon as possible. It is not right that the College should have to wait until the summer for these structures to be built and that parents and children should have to put up with any more disruption to their education. 

“I have also spoken with the Leader of Harlow Council, and the Cabinet Member for Education at Essex County Council to consider what alternative support they can offer. I know from my conversations with representatives over the weekend that both authorities stand ready and willing to offer whatever help is required.

“I would like to put on record again my sincere thanks to the incredible Headteacher, teaching and support staff, and the whole BMAT community who go above and beyond to support pupils and families during this difficult time.

I know that the ongoing situation is causing a lot of worry for parents but I know that school is doing everything possible to ensure that the safety of staff and pupils is prioritised. I want to reassure everyone affected that I am doing everything in my power to seek a resolution.

Clarity is essential for parents and the teaching staff to be able to plan ahead and I will not rest until I receive the answers and action plan that will see our young people return to face-to-face learning without delay.” 

Cllr Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “This is deeply troubling news in what has been an horrific saga for the SFG school community. As a local council, we will do everything possible to support the school in any way we can. In our communications with the school in early September we offered to explore any council-owned facilities to provide further facilities to the school, however at that time the immediate provision appeared to be suitable. In light of the latest development, I have written to the Headteacher to offer any support we can and I very much hope that we can find a way to do that.”

Cllr Tony Ball, Cabinet Member for Education at Essex County Council said: “We stand ready to help the Academy Trust in any possible way. To date, the Trust has liaised directly with Department for Education Officials, but we are keen to do anything we can to help and we will reach out to the Trust again to raise this offer of help.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

16 Comments for Harlow MP Robert Halfon details results of “weekend holding talks” over SFG College:

James Griggs
2023-10-23 18:42:00

Lots of talking but where’s the action? Lots of understanding frustrations. Lots of shared disappointment and concern but still nothing that will alleviate the very genuine concerns of staff, students and parents. This article appears to advance the situation and the knowledge of what’s happening not one jot. I’ve heard from many parents concerned about the quality of the temporary buildings. I know from my 30yr career in the event industry that even the best of these types of building are prone to condensation dripping from the roof as temperatures fluctuate and they are extremely expensive to heat due to their poor insulation properties. With winter approaching a solution is urgently needed. We are now many weeks on from the installation of these buildings, where is the detail of the action plan and a realistic timeline? So far it’s been promises and timelines broken. I fully understand the frustration of the Headteacher bemoaning the interventions of politicians who do not come bearing solutions but for some of us we are sincerely expressing the legitimate concerns of residents. The time for talking is long past, solutions, however radical, are needed and needed now. No idea should be off the table.

Luke Burton
2023-10-23 18:43:18

Utter drivel. You are ingratiating yourself with the local fee-paying school instead. Stop lying to schoolchildren and demonstrate some concrete action.

Tony Edwards
2023-10-23 18:49:08

Perhaps Mr Halfon et al would like to invite Gillian Keegan (Secretary of State for Education) to visit Harlow - and explain directly to the school and the parents, what went wrong with 1.the design and building of the Sir Frederick Gibberd School and 2. The erection of the temporary buildings - which currently have proved to be not fit for purpose. It is after all her responsibility as the Minister "to provide the answers and approve the action plan" the school so desperately needs and which the DfE have so far spectacularly failed to deliver.

2023-10-23 18:57:51

Wait do I read this right the state built a school which was not safe and then put in place temporary class rooms which also turn out to be unsafe ?

2023-10-23 20:24:01

Halfon, Swords and Ball should all resign. Their party is responsible for this calamity and they personally have done nothing but make empty promises.and failed to deliver

gary roberts
2023-10-24 07:53:00

Warm words and jam tomorrow will do nothing to support the headteacher Mrs. Conlon, her staff or the students. I suspect this statement by all those mentioned in the article was rushed in an effort to show a response after the serious concerns of the parents was highlighted on this platform. I liked the "we are ready to help" mantra that means nothing but political speak for "we can't help" in my experience, because if they could they wouldn't need to carry the statement.

2023-10-24 07:53:02

So there was a brand new school built, not fit for purpose. When that reared its ugly head, a promise was made by Mr Halfon and the D of E to ensure disruption to the school and the children's education would be kept to a minimum and temporary structures would be put in place. However, it does not take a genius to work out, the temporary structures were not going to be short term, and in place for quite sometime. SO, there is no excuse for them also now being fit for purpose either. The D of E should have made sure they were man enough to house the students for the winter months. Indeed given the original fiasco, if I was Mr Halfon, I would have personally made sure they were, and something like this would never happen. As for the Leader of Council, I would have expected him to be doing the same. Now's your chance to get this right once and for all and tell us where you suggest the students should go? No more sympathy, no more "doing all you can", no more talk, we need action. Mrs Conlon is indeed right to be angry, along with many teachers, parents and students. So lets have some answers. I along with many others I'm sure, CALL FOR YOU BOTH TO RESIGN NOW. Enough is enough.

2023-10-24 08:14:56

Actually, isn't Nick Knowles in town? Pop on your hi vis and get down there (I'm sure you will) he might be able to give you some ideas and teach the DFE a trick or two!! Your making yourselves look silly now at the expense of a whole school. GO.............

2023-10-24 09:41:45

This is terrible. Those poor kids and staff. Everyone is talking about the building but what about kids and staff. Are they ok. That poor head teacher. Is she ok. What support is there for their wellbeing. We hear stories of teachers leaving because of stress. I read one headmistres took her own life. Does anyone have like an email we can share so at least we can tell the school were thinking of them. How about giving staff some biscuits or cake or something. I know not much but just shows we care. Come on Harlow!

2023-10-24 09:54:10

What a load of nonsense! Weekend holding talks! So let me get this right! Someone writes something on social media on saturday afternoon and yourharlow publishes an article on sunday midday and our MP is in talks all weekend. Do me a favour!

2023-10-24 10:44:10

Shannon, whilst I appreciate your sentiments, please be in no doubt that we don't care. We do and that is exactly why so many are fighting for the head teacher, staff and pupils to have a decent building, and to get this put right for their wellbeing. The original building was not fit for purpose, the temporary building appears to be the same. I should not have happened and needs to be put right now. A family member of mine goes to the school, and has the support of SENDS. This has totally thrown him again, and that has an impact on the whole family. So to answer your question, the teachers, staff and pupils are not ok, that's why we are so passionate about getting this whole mess put right for their wellbeing. We are thinking of them believe me, and no one is blaming the school, its solely in the hands of D of E of which our MP is a minister, and he needs to get this put right. You would think given his position, he would be the one to do it. We are past him asking questions, sympathising with us all (and dare I say it tin of biscuits), get in there and get it sorted for the head teacher, staff and pupils who deserve better than this. If he cant, then GO NOW. Its not political and we would still feel the same regardless of who the MP was. If he cant do it, then let someone who can, regardless of their political colour. Its pure passion about getting this right, because we do care.

Stephen Archer
2023-10-24 11:02:08

This is beyond belief. Words fail me.

Klara Bow
2023-10-24 14:12:16

If this trite, commons political speak is all Halfon, Swords and Ball can offer they needn't have bothered. Deeds not words please.

Year 7 parent
2023-10-24 18:52:29

As a year 7 parent to say the year 7 children’s education is effected isn’t accurate cant doing morning prep because needing to get coach they are at the back of mark hall like the forgot children there isn’t much interaction with any other year they aren’t even allowed to communicate with mark hall at all I believe this year 7 2023 are very much effected

Tony Edwards
2023-10-26 18:27:56

From "weekend talks" to "shambles" . (Your words Mr Halfon) It is time for the DFE to come clean with the school, parents and pupils about what has to be done and when it will done. See first 3 minutes of Look East link - https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001rtz1/look-east-lunchtime-news-26102023

2023-11-04 11:46:40

Pull the place down, it was a gods send when the old Passmores went

Leave a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *