Oldham high school forced to close for two weeks over flooding

A £32 million Oldham high school has been forced to close to all but Year 11 pupils for two weeks, after a 'severe leak' caused the building to flood.

Over the weekend of February 29, water leaked into the main school building of Blessed John Henry Newman RC College (pictured) causing flooding in parts of the upper and lower floors.

School chiefs made the decision to close the Catholic secondary on Broadway on Monday after the flooding created a ‘severe health and safety issue’ and impacted on the heating of the whole building. 

Now bosses say more than 30 classrooms and office areas are ‘not fit to use’.

In a letter to parents and carers published today, headteacher Glyn Potts apologised for the ‘significant disruption’ but said ‘regrettably’ the school would be closed for a further week from March 9.

Mr Potts wrote: “I wish to say from the start, that we remain incredibly frustrated and disappointed that the issues that we face as a college have not been tackled sooner.

“Many of you will be aware that students and staff have faced difficulties with leaks and building temperature for many years and that this was always likely to lead to catastrophic issues.

“The governors have consistently sought assurances and intervention to mitigate the issues with the building but with limited success.

“The situation we now find ourselves in removes beyond any doubt that the situation is not acceptable.”

A video update posted on Twitter today by the headteacher showed Mr Potts standing in a classroom flooded with around two inches of water.

He said that another ‘significant leak’ had taken at least six classrooms out of action, including a computer and server room. 

Work has been shared for the rest of the students to enable them to keep up to date with course work remotely while students in Year 11 are able to attend the school.

Just over a month ago, on January 27, Oldham cabinet bosses had agreed to step in if required to fund and carry out repair works at the school to try and resolve its dysfunctional heating system.

The new-build school, which is a voluntary aided school rather than an academy, was completed in 2012 under a partnership between Oldham council and a PFI contractor owned by Balfour Beatty, as part of the national ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme.

But following its completion, ‘several building defects became apparent’.

These included issues with the heating system, roof leaks in the atrium area and an inability to control temperatures in certain rooms due to a ‘variety of factors’.

An Oldham council spokesperson said: “We are supporting Newman College and its contractors at this very difficult time and we know pupils, parents, carers and staff are all affected by this flooding.

“Along with the school and the contractors we are progressing with plans to resolve the long term heating issues at the College.”


Water leaked into the main school building, causing flooding in parts of the upper and lower floors

Explaining the decision to close the school in a letter to parents, Mr Potts said: “The leaks in the C Zone (Maths) have been cleared and remedial work is underway.

“It will not be lost on parents and students that this is nearly four days since the initial leak and this timescale is likely to be the ‘norm’ when responding to such large-scale flooding.

“I am seeking assurance that the building is safe and that it can operate in a way that supports the safety of all and the education of children.

“This morning, I arrived in college to find that the A-Zone ground floor (Maths) was in a similar state to C Zone from Monday.

“I shared this with parents via Twitter to hopefully give an insight in to the scale of damage and the difficulties we face.

“This means that we have over 30 classrooms and office spaces that are not fit to use and that having students return at this point would not be acceptable.”

It went on: “Regrettably, I must inform you that following discussions with the building owners and after taking advice from the local authority and our own internal team, the college is likely to remain closed to all students except for Year 11 from Monday 09th March to Monday 16th March.

“I hope to give an update to parents on Tuesday 10th and Thursday 12th March if there is a possibility that the return date could be earlier.

“In the meantime, we hope to be able to share a more credible distance learning programme with all students that can further complement the work sent by teachers and the recorded lessons sent today.

“Additionally, we are exploring what educational trips or visits could continue to go ahead to enrich the opportunities for our students.

“I again, apologise for the significant disruption to learning that our students face and ask that you keep our community in your prayers.”

There are around 1,500 students currently on roll at the mixed-sex school, which is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.

Since the school opened in 2012, the day to day operational management of the school has been undertaken by Engie Limited, who were subcontracted to provide facilities management.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted Engie Limited for comment.

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