Welcome back to Park Hill at the start of what will be a very exciting year for the school. Over the course of the next few weeks I will write to you with further details of new initiatives and improvements we aim to make to the school.
I fully understand that for many of you, yesterday was a huge inconvenience and resulted in a large amount of stress in terms of childcare issues. In previous communications I have outlined the reasons for the closure, however, I’d like to go into further detail in this letter.
As some of you will be aware, Park Hill is classed as a ‘clasp’ building – these types of buildings were often erected in the 60s and 70s and enabled schools to be put up quickly at a time of need. The ‘clasp’ construction of this time made use of asbestos as a building material and, as a school, we have known that we have asbestos in the building for a long time. There are a wide range of schools across not only Coventry but also the UK that have the same issues. Coventry City Council and the school have a clear strategy for dealing with building and the environment is closely monitored on a regular basis – this includes air testing, walls with asbestos identified and labelled, regular health and safety meetings and other statutory requirements that we carry out. In short, these rigorous systems have been in place for many years and work well.
The internal restructuring of the building was planned by the council and the construction company, Wates, to take place during the summer break to allow for safe removal of asbestos. A number of surveys for the asbestos were carried out and the building work progressed as expected for the first few weeks. Unfortunately, some way into the project, Wates uncovered more asbestos than had been identified (this was found in areas that were not commonly known in ‘clasp’ buildings) – in these situations the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have to be called and a statutory period of two weeks have to be enforced where no one has access the building until the safe removal of the additional asbestos takes place. As a direct consequence of this delay, Wates put in place a structure of works that ensured (through working seven days a week) the project would be completed on deadline which was by the 30th of August. I was in contact with the site manager on a regular basis and the team remained confident of hitting this target.
On Thursday, 28th of August I attended a meeting at school (this was the first time in the holidays that I was allowed safe access to the building) and, whilst it was clear that there was lots of work still to be done, Wates assured me that the school would be ready for staff coming in on Monday, 1st September and the school opening on Wednesday, 3rd September. I left the meeting with no concerns that the building would not be ready.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at school on Monday morning I was greeted with the fact the school was still not ready and, due to it being an ongoing building site, was not a safe working environment for staff. At the time there were multiple trades onsite carrying out works – all wearing protective equipment. I had received no notification that the building was not going to be ready over the weekend and, as you can imagine, I was extremely concerned as it soon became clear the school would not be ready for Wednesday. I then called out the council and, after a series of difficult meetings, it was decided that, due to health and safety reasons, the school would have to delay opening for a day. This decision was made exclusively with the safety of staff and children in mind. As soon as the meeting concluded, I set in motion all forms of communication (apart from telephone as during the building works our telephone systems were affected) to inform parents and carers of this decision. This was done at the earliest opportunity.
As a parent/carer, you have every right to feel aggrieved, however, I am able to say with absolute conviction that as a school we operated as quickly as possible with the information provided to us to make a quick decision. On this occasion, the school had no control of or input to the building works over the summer break – this was carried out and run by Wates whilst also being overseen by Coventry Council.
If you would like to see me at any time then please do contact the school office or if you would like to contact the local ward Councillor (Steven Thomas) then his number is: 07535 423 796 and he will be happy to deal with your queries.