Failed contractor’s £45 million schools to be demolished and rebuilt

But one of the schools says work will take four years, as ministers take legal advice over recouping costs from collapsed construction company

But one of the schools says work will take four years, as ministers take legal advice over recouping costs from collapsed construction company

5 Dec 2023, 10:56

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Buildings at three almost-new schools will be demolished due to safety concerns

Three schools built by the same construction company at a cost of £45 million will be demolished and rebuilt over safety concerns, as the government seeks legal advice on recovering costs from the failed firm.

But one of the schools has confirmed works will not be completed for four years, while another is still unsure of the location for new buildings.

Sir Frederick Gibberd College, in Essex, Haygrove School, Somerset, and Buckton Fields Primary School, Northampton, were told in August to close their almost-new buildings constructed by Caledonian Modular.

Surveys found buildings at the three schools, closed in August, could not withstand “very high winds or significant snowfall”.

Academies minister Baroness Barran has now confirmed that the Department for Education (DfE) will fund the rebuilding of the schools.

“We have continued to prioritise face-to-face learning during this time and to help schools through this transition phase, we are providing each school with high quality, long term temporary accommodation,” she said in a statement.

Barran thanked parents and pupils for their “patience” over the last five months, and said the new buildings would have “great indoor and outdoor facilities”.

Contracts worth £38 million for the Sir Frederick Gibberd and Haygrove buildings were awarded to Caledonian Modular in 2019 under the DfE’s £3 billion “modern methods of construction” framework.

Under its contract, Caledonian Modular – which went into administration in March 2022 – led design, planning and installation of the schools. 

The firm was also awarded a £6.5 million contract for building works at Buckton Fields.

Following its collapse, two schools it had been contracted to build in Cornwall were demolished before construction was completed after the government identified “defects”.

Surveys carried out at the DfE’s request earlier this year showed buildings at the three schools closed in August could not withstand “very high winds or significant snowfall”.

Temporary buildings still not in place

Closures meant a staggered start to term at the schools, with some pupils being temporarily transferred to other school sites.

Buckton Fields pupils have been educated at Pineham Barns Primary School, which is also run by Preston Hedges Trust.

Pupils will move into “interim buildings” at the Buckton Fields site in February.

The trust’s CEO, Paul Watson, said while it “certainly would not have ever wanted to be in the position” it is currently in, “we are pleased there is now certainty over the existing school building”.

Year 7 pupils at Sir Frederick Gibberd have been temporarily educated at another school ran by The BMAT Education Trust, while its GCSE pupils have been using other schools for specialist science and DT subjects.

BMAT said that a “full suite” of temporary classrooms would open from April, while the permanent building was not expected to be completed until 2027.

Some Haygrove pupils have been educated in temporary classrooms, with others going to a different school site.

But in a letter to parents on Friday, the school said it was still “engaging” with the DfE on details “such as timescales and the location of the new buildings”.

DfE ‘seeking legal advice’ on recouping costs

Documents filed by administrators on Companies House show the DfE was owed £2 million when Caledonian Modular collapsed.

But there were “insufficient funds” to cover unsecured creditors, which included the DfE.

“We are also reviewing our contracts, and seeking legal advice on how we can recover the costs where that contractor was involved,” Barran has now said.

The DfE said it would launch an investigation into the firm in August.

Schools Week also reported in September that the DfE was yet to find construction companies for four new special schools after two firms contracted to do the work – including Caledonian Modular – collapsed.

It emerged yesterday that a new 210-place primary school in Cheshire, due to open in September 2025, would be delayed by at least a year due to the collapse of a construction firm.

Northwich Guardian reported that Cheshire East Council had warned escalating costs because of the delay could lead to the scheme no longer being affordable.

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  1. Robert Hardy

    Perhaps time to give schools back to local authorities and reestablish county architects departments. Our children and grandchildren will be paying billions and billions of debt run up by this failed government and it’s incompetant ‘private is always best’ mantra.