School closure ‘not taken lightly’, says head

William Harding School in Aylesbury, which is opening two days late due to building works over running. Pictured is a classroom minus its ceiling.

William Harding School in Aylesbury, which is opening two days late due to building works over running. Pictured is a classroom minus its ceiling.

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The headteacher of a primary school that is opening two days late thanks to building work delays made the decision ‘based on pupil and staff well-being’.

Youngsters who attend William Harding School in Aylesbury were meant to be starting their new term this morning, but this has been pushed back until Wednesday due to building work delays on site.

William Harding School in Aylesbury, which is opening two days late due to building works over running. Pictured is equipment piled up to allow for the work to carry on.

William Harding School in Aylesbury, which is opening two days late due to building works over running. Pictured is equipment piled up to allow for the work to carry on.

The work to combine the infants and juniors building, which is being done by a Bucks County Council contractor, has been ongoing all summer.

Talking about the decision, headteacher Dominic Hughes said: “Due to the construction works taking place in the junior and infant buildings over running, we have made the decision to delay the pupils’ return to school to Wednesday, September 7.

“We understand the inconvenience this will cause to families, however, this decision has not been taken lightly and is based on the health, safety and well-being of pupils and staff.”

The news, which was first announced on the Mix 96 website last week, came as a shock to some parents who had not yet received correspondence from the school.

But Mr Hughes explained that in incidents like this, schools have to adhere to an emergency closure procedure overseen by the county council.

The process, which is most often used when schools close due to heavy snow, involves submitting an online form to the council, which then sends an automatic update to the local radio station.

Until this is done the school cannot contact parents, but this meant the news was broadcast before the school office sent out emails and texts to parents, which Mr Hughes said happened ‘within the hour’ after the emergency closure procedure was actioned.

The school’s answerphone message, which told parents term would start on September 5, was not able to be updated due to the work putting phone lines being out of action.

Mr Hughes, whose staff educate more than 600 children at the school on Hazlehurst Drive, also said the classrooms, corridors and halls were ‘not in a suitable condition’ for pupils and staff to return.

Following extensive meetings with the site contractors and Bucks County Council, Mr Hughes made the executive decision to delay the school term by two days.

He said: “It is our intention to recoup this lost teaching time throughout the school year, therefore, the INSET day scheduled for Friday, October 21 will not go ahead and will be a normal school day.

“We will identify a second day later in the school year.”

A spokesman for Bucks County Council said: “We are working with William Harding School Head and Governors to prepare the school for an additional form of entry.

“Progressively, over the next seven years, the school will be able to accept 210 more pupils.

“This needs additional space, and so the County Council commissioned a 15 month programme to build a new block of four classrooms, a new hall and offices, and to refurbish the school’s junior building.

“The contractors completed the work on the junior building on September 1, in time for the beginning of term, however, the Head notified the County Council that the need to clear the rooms and clean up after refurbishment work meant staff would not be able to prepare in time for the start of the autumn term.

“He followed the emergency closure procedure to notify us that he was starting term two days later than planned.

“Contractors will now continue work on the new school classroom block and the development is expected to be completed by early spring.”