Parents frustrated as Hornchurch school forced to delay move until next year

An artist's impression of the new building for Suttons Primary School. The school's plans are set to

An artist's impression of the new building for Suttons Primary School. The school's plans are set to be discussed by Havering Council's regulatory services committee. Picture: Suttons Primary School - Credit: Archant

Work has been delayed to complete a new school building, forcing frustrated parents to cancel their child care arrangements last minute.

After celebrating its 82nd birthday, Suttons Primary School, Suttons Lane, Hornchurch, was hoping to move into a new building in October but staff and pupils may now have to wait until early 2017.

But in a letter to parents, the school said it had been told its contractors Galliford Try would not be able to hand over the new building until next year.

In the letter, the school explained it had not anticipated the news and was “very disappointed”.

“During recent meeting we were assured the school would open as planned. We are aware that this delay will have an impact on many families,” it said.

Parents were told the school would close for three days next week, and for another week following the usual half-term break, for the move to be completed.

Many of them had made arrangements for their children to be looked after.

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But on Friday, the school sent out a letter informing “with regret” that the move would no longer take place on November 7 as planned.

This comes after the school organised a party, inviting current and former staff, governors and pupils to visit the school ahead of the move.

It added the matter was completely “out of its hands” and as soon as it would have any further information, parents would be the first ones to know.

But parents are frustrated after first having to make alternative child care arrangements for October and now having to cancel them.

Some parents had to take annual leave, pay for child care or book a holiday as the school was due to close for an extra 10 days on top of the usual October half term.

Kay Merryman, whose nine-year-old daughter Millie is in Year 5 at the school, booked a holiday abroad during the expected long autumn break.

Millie has 100per cent attendance record and although the school said it would approve planned holidays if evidence is shown to the school office, Mrs Merryman is concerned about her daughter missing out on teaching and lowering her attendance record ahead of applying to secondary school.

“That is just not fair. The contractors just don’t want to put their hand over the parapet,” she said.

“But some parents have had to take unpaid leave or booked child care and they won’t get reimbursed because it is too short notice. The costs are adding up and who is going to pay for it,” she said.

Havering Council cabinet member for children and learning said Cllr Robert Benham said:

“Suttons Primary School is being re-built as part of central government‘s Priority Schools Building Programme. It is very unfortunate that the completion date for delivery of the new school premises has slipped and that parents, teachers and pupils inconvenienced as a result.

“I can assure parents that any absences by pupils from school around the October half term holiday due to holidays booked on dates when it was previously advertised that the school would be closed will be treated as exceptional circumstances and those days off school treated as authorised absence. This means that a child’s attendance record will not be adversely affected.

“Compensation for any wasted expenditure, for example for childcare arranged for dates in October when parents were told the school would be closed, is matter for the EFA but on behalf of the school and parents Havering Council will fight for it to be paid.

“We are now advised that the new school building will be ready for occupation on Tuesday 3 January 2017 but it is not possible at this stage to confirm how many, if any, days outside of school holiday the school will be closed in December in order to prepare the new school premises for occupation.

“We are pressing the EFA and their contactors to provide as much information, as soon as possible, to avoid any repeat of the unfortunate delay in providing Suttons Primary school children with new school premises suitable for the 21st Century.”