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School given day to shut over concrete risk with pupils split across four sites

Some schools were alerted to the potential concrete issue in April (Alamy/PA)
Jordan Reynolds, PA

A school was given 24 hours to close due to aerated concrete and had to spread its 500 pupils across four sites which included a mosque’s community hall and a manor house.

Luke Whitney, headteacher of Mayflower Primary School in Leicester, said the school was one of the first where reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) was identified in April, and they were given one day to empty the building in what he described as an “absolute nightmare”.

They had to revert to online learning initially as they did during the pandemic, and in the days that followed the community came together and two schools offered spare space for classes, a mosque let them use its community hall and a manor house was also used.

The pupils were split up into four groups and the school carried on in person until they were told part of the original building could be used again just before the summer holidays.

Half of the pupils are now back on site and half are still being taught elsewhere while a temporary school is built on the grounds, which Mr Whitney hopes will be ready in February next year.

But it is not known if the former building can be repaired or will need to be demolished.

Mr Whitney said: “Our survey took place on April 5, the recommendation was made on April 20 – they gave us 24 hours to evict the entire premises. That was a substantial challenge for the parents, students, staff and community.

“Tables, chairs, learning resources, all of the books and possessions, it was an absolute nightmare.

“Everyone was completely shocked, it’s the last thing you expect to hear.

“We had to briefly revert to online learning. We all knew during the pandemic it was not an adequate replacement, so we had to work really quickly to source alternative accommodation.

“Our community came to our aid, about eight or nine days in we managed to begin some face-to-face teaching.

“We were spread over four sites – an old manor house which was just lovely for the younger children, the lovely local mosque gifted us their community centre, and space at two schools.

“It was a really nice story of community action to support those who needed it.”

This week the school has been able to reopen partially for half of the 474 pupils, until the temporary module is built.

“Then the surveyors, architects and builders can make a decision as to whether or not we repair or demolish and start all over again,” Mr Whitney said.

“The fact that they’re building us a temporary school makes me think the works required are likely to be long term.”

Mr Whitney added that what happened to his school was a bad story turned into a good story as it saw the community come together to help.

He said: “It’s a real sense of community and that’s something that is so strong in this part of Leicester.”

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