Buckton Fields School in Northampton told to close building for 'urgent' safety inspections

Buckton Fields Primary School in Northampton has been ordered to close.
Credit: ITV News Anglia
Buckton Fields Primary School in Northampton has been told it has to close its building. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Primary school bosses said they were "shocked" to be told its new building will have to close due to safety concerns - after another school was told the same.

Buckton Fields Primary School in Northampton told parents in a letter on Tuesday that its two-year-old building will need "urgent and essential building inspections".

It said the Department for Education "conducted surveys which identified concerns with building work carried out by a specific contractor that is no longer in business".

Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow, Essex, which used the same contractor, has also been ordered to stay shut. Staff and pupils there reported large cracks in walls, flooding and black mould.

The Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow has closed after power cables were stolen over the weekend Credit: ITV News Anglia

Paul Watson, chief executive of Preston Hedges Trust, which runs the school, said: "We were naturally shocked to be told by the Department for Education that we were unable to use the school building at Buckton Fields at the start of this coming new school year.

“We of course share the concerns raised by parents and will be working with them and the wider school community to make sure we rise to this challenge together. We have arranged meetings with them to this end.

“We now need to focus on getting fully ready for the start of term.

"We have been working tirelessly with colleagues at the Department for Education and with the support of West Northamptonshire Council to make sure that we have a full and effective contingency plan in place so no pupils’ education is impacted by this turn of events."

Both school buildings in Northampton and Harlow were built within the last few years by Caledonian Modular.

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

The buildings were 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.

Buckton Fields said classes would temporarily relocate to the nearby Pineham Barns Primary School - which is also managed by Preston Hedges Trust.

It told parents it was "highly likely" the building could be closed for up to three years.

But the school said it was building a temporary site on its field, which it hoped would be completed by the end of the October half term.

It said the new site would have separate classrooms, a school hall, kitchen facilities, a library and an ICT suite.

A timelapse construction video posted by Caledonian Modular shows the buildings being assembled at Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow, Essex

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

A DfE spokesperson had said in response to Sir Frederick Gibberd College having to close its building for similar reasons: “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."

The DfE became concerned after two other new schools in Cornwall, built by Caledonian Modular, had to be demolished before construction had completed.

The partially completed and hugely delayed Newquay Primary Academy was taken down in April, after the company went under.

The part-built Launceston Primary School also had to be taken down.

A third new school planned in the county, Sky Academy, was also set to be built by the firm, but no building work had started.

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