TAMESIDE Council was lied to over the work done on a Denton school that should be replaced after years of problems caused by shoddy workmanship, its headteacher believes.
When Russell Scott opened its doors in 2015 after a £2.7 million rebuild, Councillor Ged Cooney described it as ‘such a fantastic outcome.’
But before the ink on those words had even dried, headteacher Steve Marsland was finding problems which have not stopped.
Pupils now in Year Six have not been able to play on the field during their entire time there. It remains fenced off with warning signs after it became a dumping ground.
Now Denton MP Andrew Gwynne has called for meetings with the Government after the issues were brought to public attention.
So far, about £670,000 has been spent to try to fix structural problems, including roof and floor issues, flooding and sewers leaking.
Now Mr Marsland believes the time has come where at least £5 million is needed to put right the job done by the now defunct Carillion by building another new building on the field area, knocking down the current structure and letting that become the school fields.He also admitted everyone who has played a part in the fiasco should take some responsibility, from school-based level to the council to Government.
He said: “We’ve been waiting six years, so we’re running out of time. The longer it goes on, the more it will cost because of more failures. It’s prudent to make a decision as soon as possible.
“I noticed problems on the very first day, within the first week we had to close for non-compliance with fire regulations.
“Our Year Six kids were in nursery when it started. They come past a building site, a bomb site that’s overgrown with fencing.
“We want them to have aspiration. What does it tell a child when nothing gets done?
“Our school motto is ‘Reach high and go far’ – and look at the facilities we have to battle. It’s not fair and it’s not been fair for a long time. It’s become normal.
“Whoever has been involved in the project, we’re all accountable, from school-based to ministers, for allowing the school to be in this condition for a length of time.
“People involved since 2015, whether they’re a brickie, a councillor, a Carillion developer. Everyone has to look at themselves and decide if they can sleep soundly.”
Carillion was responsible for the work after Tameside Council secured funding through the Primary Capital Scheme.
The authority insists they were the Government’s choice of contractor, although Mr Marsland believes they had some form of autonomy over who carried it out.
None the less, sewage coming up into the playground, having to evacuate because of explosive levels of sewer gas that triggered alarms and other issues brought things to a head.
Mr Gwynne highlighted the issues to then education secretary Gavin Williamson, who says minister Baroness Berridge will meet with him.Mr Marsland said a mountain of reports have already been written and he hopes a visit is made as people would be ‘shocked’.
He added: “This will be first time the Government has known about it but the council has had reports pointing towards what needs to happen.
“Extensive reports have been done and issued to the council from architects, structural engineers and multiple expert reports about the roof, drainage and the field.
“Every aspect points that to put it right will cost multiple millions of pounds. The drains and sewers not fit for purpose.
“Carillion were so big and told lies. It gave reports to the council saying one thing which was different to what was happening at a school-based level.
“We’ve got film, pictures, reports, all kinds of things to show ministers and what needs to happen.
“As soon as anyone comes on site they’re shocked. We had a film crew from the BBC here and they were open mouthed.”When Russell Scott reopened, after pupils were housed at the former Two Trees High school during work – a site that has since been found to have had asbestos on it – Tameside Council was delighted at the creation of six new classrooms, a community space and upgrade of all other teaching and staff spaces.
Cllr Cooney, then executive member for learning, skills and economic growth, said: “I am really pleased that the project to remodel and extend Russell Scott Primary School has resulted in such a fantastic outcome.
“I am glad that they are now enjoying teaching and learning in the new state of the art school.”
Fast forward six years and the picture could not be more different.
MP Gwynne asked in Parliament for the government to intervene, saying: “£670,000 has been spent patching the structural problems caused by their works.
“But it needs another £5 million and even then Tameside Council isn’t convinced the building will be fixed.
“It’s serious, so may I ask the secretary of state for an urgent meeting to look at how we can help Russell Scott give the children there the very best education in the very best buildings?”
When asked by The Correspondent about the work, how Carillion became involved, and even Cllr Cooney’s statement at the time, Tameside Council replied but said funding for a replacement will not come easily.
A spokesman said: “A £2.7 million major remodelling and extension to Russell Scott Primary school was undertaken in 2015 under the Primary Capital Programme (PCP) funding stream.
“Following its completion, the school, the community and the council have been left disappointed after the works carried out by Carillion – Government’s choice of contractor – were of poor quality.
“The council have worked and continue to work closely with Russell Scott Primary School to ensure any immediate and remedial works were carried out so that there is no risk to pupils and staff.
“An independent opinion, conclusive defects report commissioned by the council was completed in August 2017 stating that the issues with the building fell almost entirely within workmanship deficiencies and it remained Carillion’s obligation to carry out and complete the works at no extra cost.
“However, Carillion went into liquidation in January 2018 requiring the council to undertake the design and delivery of the remedial works.
“The council has therefore sought advice from the Department for Education on potential solutions given that school condition allocations are unlikely to meet the cost of providing the necessary repairs or rebuild.
“Unfortunately, there are no immediate funding solutions but officers will continue to work with the Complex Projects Team at the DfE to address the obvious funding gap.”