SFG College bosses hope school can re-open next Tuesday
Education / Fri 10th Nov 2023 at 09:37am
THE CHIEF executive of BMAT, the organisation in charge of Sir Frederick Gibberd College (SFG) has sent an update to parents regarding the school re-opening.
Helena Mills said:
This is a comprehensive update on lots of matters which I know are concerning you all. It is going out a day later than we originally planned, but we wanted to do it properly for you.
We are delighted to say that Department for Education (DFE) contractors are in the final stages of completing the necessary work to enable pupils to return to school next week. We are sorry about the delay and disruption this has caused to everybody, but the result is an improved set of facilities better suited to the winter prioritising the safety and welfare of pupils.
Having reviewed the work today onsite, we are confident that face-to-face education will resume at SFG School on Tuesday 14 November. The school day will commence as usual. The teaching arrangements for year 7 at Mark Hall Academy will continue as they are now.
This is a day later than we had originally anticipated, but this extra day is to allow for a necessary final inspection and sign-off to be made by DFE officials and clean the site following final work being completed over the weekend and on Monday. We are working at pace to deliver in the time frame, and we hope that the risk this deadline is missed is low.
Over the past two weeks, a number of important improvements have been made to the site:
We are very conscious that Year 11 pupils have GCSE exams next summer. We want to do all we can to ensure this year group are fully supported.
For that reason, mock exams will be held during the last two weeks of January 2024 at the Mark Hall Academy Sports Centre. We shall send a separate schedule for exams out in the coming weeks. The Summer 2024 exam season will be held onsite at SFG at a suitable building which is quiet and properly ventilated.
SFG staff will be doing all they can to ensure we support our year 11 group as much as possible and senior leadership will be working with the Head of Year to ensure there is suitable support for revision ahead of exams. I am confident that this year group will perform well, partly because we now have temporary school facilities in which we can have confidence.
The DFE has confirmed that a contract has been signed to handover the first phase of Portakabin accommodation on 12th April 2024, three days before the start of the summer term on Monday 15th April 2024. The second phase is due to be completed in August 2024.
I know there have been questions about whether alternative accommodation can be found in Harlow for the school. BMAT staff have been exploring that option with Harlow Council. While there were several sites explored, unfortunately, all the options presented serious practical challenges, and therefore, as student welfare is the priority, we shall remain on site at SFG. This is another reason why closing the school for the recent series of upgrades was the right thing to do.
I am pleased to announce that following close coordination with Robert Halfon MP’s office, we will be hosting an evening for parents to meet with Baroness Barran, the Minister with ultimate oversight for the school, Mr Halfon himself, as well as senior representatives from the DFE and Essex County Council. Baroness Barran will answer questions and give us all reassurance about the future for SFG. That event will be on Thursday, 30th November 2023, from 7pm to 8pm. This ticketed event will be for parents only, and there shall be availability for one representative per household to attend. We shall be able to confirm booking information and the venue in the coming days.
It has been an incredibly difficult time for the entire school community, and I want to thank everyone for their resilience, patience, and support as we prepare for the return to face-to-face teaching. DFE, SFG and BMAT staff have been working tirelessly to reopen the school site for face-to-face education as quickly and safely as possible, and I want to thank each and every one of them for that.
Fingers crossed, we can now head towards Christmas with confidence. As ever, please can I ask that if you have any questions at all, email [email protected].
Ms. Helena Mills CBE
CEO, BMAT Education
This government giving an unelected Member of the House of Lords (therefore, unaccountable to the general public) and former investment banker the portfolio of school buildings shows that the issue isn't being taken seriously whatsoever.
"Fingers crossed we can now head towards Christmas with confidence" she says. I'd like something a bit more solid than "fingers crossed". My daughter has already lost more than 10% of a school year. Organising family life has been made impossibly difficult thanks to last minute notifications and broken promises and failed delivery. Fingers crossed indeed.
Mark I don’t think Helena Mills is laying the tarmac or routing the plumbing. She is at the mercy of the DfE contractors so yes fingers crossed might not sound great but short of training in a building career I don’t know what more you want her to say.
Should there not also be representation from JRL Group who bought Caledonian Modular last year (April 2022) when it was in administration? They have inherited a huge mess and there needs to be an open dialogue that demonstrates what the DfE is actually doing about this horrendous problem. Will JRL group be the company rectifying the work at SFG? What tender process took place initially and is taking place now? Who signed off the college building and are they still in post? The town has suffered enough at the hands of the incompetent DfE and it is our children who pay the price.
Danny, what Helena Mills could do is insist on more timely and definite answers for the DfE so that parents can plan childcare. My employer is not happy with "I'm not in on Monday, fingers crossed I will be in Tuesday. While I accept neither she nor the school staff are to blame, because the failings are down to the DfE (and Robert Halfon who works in the DfE), Helena Mills has allowed herself to be the mouthpiece and apologist for the DfE.
Mark, we've literally been waiting for them to finish the work last week and weekend and have it signed off. What answer to "is the site ready?" can she have pushed for before today?