‘The worst conditions I’ve ever seen’: Minister blasts dilapidated primary school where pupils learn in corridors clutching umbrellas
Crumbling walls, moldy carpets, cracked windows and collapsing roofs…
… but still nothing done at Coventry school a year after plight highlighted
By Simon Tomlinson
PUBLISHED: 17:14, 1 May 2012 | UPDATED: 17:15, 1 May 2012
A dilapidated school where pupils were forced to have lessons in the corridor because of the decaying classrooms is still in a state of disrepair one year on.
Teachers at Richard Lee Primary School, in Wyken, Coventry, have told how nothing has changed.
One one occasion in the last twelve months, a corridor was turned into a river after blocked and cracked storm drains overflowed.
And in the last two weeks, six leaks have sprung up in classroom roofs, forcing the children to hold umbrellas during lessons.
It all adds to a tale of woe at the 509-pupil school – soon to increase to 700 students in September – that includes crumbling walls, moldy carpets, drafty doors, cracked windows, collapsing roofs and freezing classrooms.
When Nick Gibb, minister of state for schools, visited he dubbed the conditions the worst he has ever seen.
Mr Gibb added: ‘I would be very cross about the standard of the building if I was a parent with children at the school. This is clearly a very poor building that was built in the 1950s and needs work.
The run-down primary school hit the headlines last year when four and five-year-olds were forced to have lessons in a corridor after their classroom was flooded by a faulty boiler.
And just five months later part of a roof collapsed – again forcing kids out of their classroom.
Pupils, teachers and parents have since campaigned for a rebuild – even taking their fight to Downing Street and the Department for Education in July.
Their protests prompted a visit from Mr Gibb yesterday, where the minister praised staff in keeping teaching standards at the school high, even when the facilities were not.
He said: ‘This is a school focused on making sure that children improve their reading and arithmetic, despite the problems that they labour under.’
The school is now part of seven in Coventry bidding for funding as part of the Priority Schools Building Programme.
But headteacher Nicola Harwood said: ‘We will have to wait and see if funding materialises. Hopefully our school will be at the top of the list to receive money or a rebuild.
‘For now we will have to keep patching up the school and continue to make sure Richard Lee is fit for purpose.’
Nicola revealed that it would cost upwards of £1million to bring the school up to standard – including a £40,000 boiler system and £25,000 to install new doors and windows throughout.
The headteacher added: ‘Since last year when we moved classes into a corridor, that has been flooded by broken storm drains overflowing.
‘It was like a river running down the corridor. We are running out of rooms which don’t have anything wrong with them to be honest.
‘It meant we had to take classes into the main hall, which is not ideal.
‘I think there are issues over funding for schools. They need to do surveys to make sure schools don’t get to the stage we are at again.
‘The most frustrating thing is that the decision on who will receive money keeps on being put back.
‘It could be another year before we see any change but I am very optimistic and the minister had nothing but good things to say about the level of teaching.
Coventry MP Bob Ainsworth, who has raised the school’s plight in parliament, said: ‘We made sure the schools minister was aware of the really shocking state of the building and he said it was the worst he had seen.
‘I knew that if he came he would be shocked and all we can hope for is that it puts Richard Lee at the centre of minds when it comes to deciding funding allocations for the Priority Schools Building Programme.’