Pupils return after temporary school closures


Pupils have returned to lessons at a number of Kent schools where safety concerns led to temporary closures.

Members of KCC’s Infrastructure team and contractors worked over the weekend and the early part of this week to ensure that temporary accommodation and facilities were in place as soon as possible.

The result was that Sunny Bank Primary in Sittingbourne was able to reopen on Tuesday, with pupils at Birchington Church of England Primary, Palmarsh Primary in Hythe and St James Church of England School in Tunbridge Wells returning on Wednesday.

Headshot of KCC cabinet member Rory Love

The work involved was extensive and the speed with which these temporary measures were put in place was impressive.

Rory Love KCC’s Cabinet Member for Education

KCC’s Cabinet Member for Education, Rory Love, praised the efforts of all those involved in making the arrangements as well as a number of other schools which have stepped in to assist with temporary accommodation and facilities, including school meals.

He said: "The work involved was extensive and the speed with which these temporary measures were put in place was impressive. From the start, I was determined that we did not suffer the kind of disruption to education that we saw during the pandemic response, with online learning becoming the default. I'm pleased that our efforts have meant children are back in the classroom ahead of expectations."

The urgent measures were put in place after a decision by the Department for Education following a change in the guidelines from the Institution of Structural Engineers concerning a certain type of concrete used in each school’s roof.

At Palmarsh Primary School, marquees have been provided to accommodate four forms whose usual classrooms have been decommissioned, together with a larger marquee to provide a hall and dining area and two toilet blocks.

An electricity supply, WiFi and flooring have been installed, and meals will be provided by Hythe Bay Primary.

At St James Church of England Primary School,all the works and the setting up and moving of furniture and resources were completed yesterday. The Year 6 classes are now being accommodated at Temple Grove Academy, and Year 3 are attending Rusthall Primary. Two extra toilets have been provided for the classes remaining on the main site.

At Sunny Bank Primary School, temporary accommodation has been provided to replace a number of classes in the older part of its building, which needed to close. A toilet block for staff has been provided and Highsted Grammar School’s catering company is cooking and delivering meals.  Two marquees have also been provided as breakout and intervention spaces.

The SEN classes, which were expected to transfer to Meadowfield School until the end of term, have been able to return to their usual site at Sunny Bank already, which means these students are back to their familiar site.

At Birchington Church of England Primary School,structural works have been carried out to allow the school reception, office and administration areas to be occupied. A number of interim classrooms have been set up, with electrical and IT works completed.

In all four cases, remedial work which was scheduled to take place over the summer holidays will be carried out as quickly as possible, with pupils returning to the normal schools by the start of the new academic year in September.

Plans are also in hand for investigations at a fifth school, Godinton Primary, in Ashford.

Roofing issues affecting classrooms, offices and toilets were resolved in 2022 by the academy trust which runs the school and the Department for Education, without any involvement from KCC.

However, it has been decided that further investigations into the condition of the hall, some stores and a corridor are required, and KCC has provided a marquee while these are carried out.