Sir Frederick Gibberd College: Harlow school ordered to stay shut over safety fears

Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow.
Credit: Caledonian Modular/YouTube
An aerial view of Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow. Credit: Caledonian Modular/YouTube

Pupils and teachers have been told their school will not reopen in September because of concerns about the safety of the building.

Structural irregularities have been identified at the main building and sports hall at Sir Frederick Gibberd (SFG) College in Harlow, Essex.

The Department of Education (DfE) advised them to be closed immediately, the school said.

The DfE had ordered the survey after growing concerned about buildings built by a contractor which had since gone out of business.

That survey "raised some queries about the structure", said the school.

It added: "Following further analysis of the survey information, a report and risk assessment on the building structure was delivered to the DfE and shared with the trust late last week.

"Having regard to the reports received, the DfE is no longer able to verify the structural safety of the building, hence their advice to close."

The contractor, Newark-based Caledonian Modular, went into administration in 2022 and was later bought by another building firm, saving around 200 jobs.

  • Sir Frederick Gibberd College

The college opened in 2019 and has 440 children aged 11 to 19 on its pupil roll, with capacity for 630.

It was built in a modular style, meaning much of the construction work takes place off-site, and the pieces are assembled on site, cutting the time taken to complete projects.

The college opened on 2 September 2019 and moved into its current site two years later.

A timelapse construction video posted by Caledonian Modular shows the buildings being assembled on site.

Harlow MP Robert Halfon said it was "shocking" to learn of the school's closure and that he was working to find a solution that would not disrupt children's education.

The school statement, from the BMAT Education trust, adds: "This situation is not of the trust or school’s making. The trust has been acting on the advice of the DfE and its technical consultants throughout this process.

"BMAT Education was not involved in the commissioning, designing, construction, or quality assurance of these buildings and the DFE are taking full responsibility for resolving the situation.

"Even though this is a situation not of our making, we are very sorry about it."

It said that plans on how teaching would be delivered for pupils were being drawn up, and said that the start of the new term would be delayed.

Mr Halfon added: "This is a very trying time for the whole school community, and I would like to acknowledge the tremendous work of the school staff, who have already gone above and beyond to work at pace with the Department [for Education] to find solutions to the ongoing situation."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Following surveys conducted at our request, we have identified concerns with building work carried out by a specific contractor that is no longer in business.

"The department is working closely with school leaders and the relevant local authorities to make sure pupils and parents are informed and appropriate temporary measures are put in place to accommodate pupils safely and protect their education."

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