A HEADTEACHER of a primary school left with pupils wading through sewage and ‘battleground-like’ playing fields fenced off has hit out at being told there is no money to correct faults.
Steve Marsland believes it will take about £5 million to right the wrongs at Denton’s Russell Scott and also revealed other failings that hit them in the pocket at a time the cost of living is a crisis.
The town’s MP Andrew Gwynne raised the issue in the House of Commons to education minister Robin Walker after being left angered by correspondence by Parliamentary under-secretary, Baroness Diana Barran.
He said: “He knows there’s been a botched £2.7 million refurbishment by Carillion, which left the school with wrecked footings, a leaking roof, defective fire safety measures, inadequate drainage that floods the school with raw sewage and the playing fields still resemble the Somme.
“It needs £5 million to put right or a new build.
“Baroness Barran wrote to me and basically said, ‘Tough, there’s no money.’ That’s not acceptable, is it?
“This isn’t levelling up. Let’s get the purse strings open and let’s rebuild Russell Scott.”
Despite Mr Gwynne’s anger, Mr Walker only responded with: “He’s clearly a champion for the school. He’s made the case many times before.
“I’d be surprised if that was the contents of the letter as I believe, as he will know, there’s a programme due to open shortly.
“We can’t pre-empt that programme but I know he’s made a strong case for his school.”
That answer, or rather the lack of one, left Mr Marsland dismayed as he told The Correspondent: “I am appalled that a building so poorly constructed by Carillion could be left and forgotten about.
“Architects and various other structural experts have condemned the building and only replacement and rebuild will be adequate.“The heating has been condemned and is so inefficient that we have been paying £45,000 annually for our energy costs, when before Carillion botched it up it was between £12-£15,000.
“So since 2015, we have spent more than £180,000 in excessive energy bills and we have an energy crisis looming! This is coming out of the general school budget for staff etc.”
Mr Marsland also took aim at the Government for its use of money, especially the writing off of more than £4 billion of wrongly awarded Covid-19 support payments.
He added: “This reflects the empty promises of levelling up and the Government writing off £4.5 billion of furlough fraud and the PPE contracts that wasted public money.
“Yet they can’t find any money for a primary school in such dire circumstances.”
When Russell Scott opened its doors in 2015 after a £2.7 million rebuild, Tameside Councillor Ged Cooney described it as ‘such a fantastic outcome.’
But before the ink on those words had even dried, Mr 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.
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 Marsland admitted everyone who has played a part in the fiasco should take some responsibility, from school-based level to the council to Government.
And when previously asked by The Correspondent about the work, how Carillion became involved, and even Cllr Cooney’s statement at the time, Tameside Council 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 has worked and continues 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.
“Unfortunately, there are no immediate funding solutions but officers will continue to work with the Complex Projects Team at the Department For Education to address the obvious funding gap.”