Temporary secondary school complete with dance studio, art rooms and science labs is being built for closed academy at the base of Grenfell Tower has been closed since fire
London,July21A temporary secondary school complete with dance studio, art rooms and science labs is being built to house pupils whose academy at the base of Grenfell Tower has been closed since fire raged through the block.
The Kensington Aldridge academy (KAA) is relocating to a new site for the start of the academic year while police continue a forensic examination of the scene. Construction of the temporary school, just over one mile from the current site, is under way.
KAA has been closed since the fire at the 24-storey block of flats on 14 June. Two other nearby schools, the Burlington Danes academy and Latymer Upper school, took in hundreds of pupils for the last few weeks of term.
KAA’s buildings also need extensive cleaning following the fire and ventilation systems need checking.
The vast majority of KAA’s 900-plus pupils live within a half-mile radius of the school and the tower. Four pupils died in the fire, plus another who had recently left.
Over the next eight weeks, a temporary school is being constructed on land at Wormwood Scrubs, a large open space in the neighbouring borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, about a 20-minute walk from KAA.
It will comprise five blocks of Portakabins, close to Burlington Danes academy. “We had hoped to be back in our usual building by September, but that’s not possible so we are activating plan B. The important thing is that children have as normal an education as possible,” said a spokesperson for KAA.
“It will be a complete school, with a dance studio, art rooms, science labs – everything that is needed to teach a full curriculum.”
David Benson, KAA’s principal, wrote to all parents last week to give details of the temporary school, saying it was “a fairly fast moving project”.
He had been advised by the government that the latest date of the school’s return to its permanent site was April 2018, he said. However, that is believed to be an aspiration, and KAA may be on its temporary site for a full academic year.
The Department for Education declined to give a figure for the cost of the temporary school citing commercial confidentiality, but said the amount would be published after completion.
The project is being run by Portakabin. A spokesperson for the company said: “To plan a project of this size and complexity, at least 70 people [are working on it] initially, with a further 150 involved in on-site delivery.”
The Wormwood Scrubs land is being licensed from Hammersmith and Fulham council, and is expected to revert back to its previous use once the KAA moves back to its permanent site.
In a separate letter posted on KAA’s website on Monday, the school set out details of counselling and psychological support offered to pupils over the past month. Children had shown “exceptional resilience”, it said, but “we are still learning to cope with the shock and devastation of such a traumatic event”.
It added: “We are aware of the full range of emotions and behaviours which are perfectly normal and to be expected in response to major stress, so please don’t be alarmed if your child is, for example, having difficulty sleeping or is remembering sounds and images they have seen.”
The school would continue to offer psychological support for students over the summer holidays.
KAA is advertising for a maths and a physics teacher for the autumn term to cover two members of staff who have been seconded to provide pastoral support to students affected by the fire.
Some people who live near the temporary site for KAA have expressed concern at the impact of an extra 960 students – the number enrolled for the next academic year – in an area where about 1,200 children are already attending Burlington Danes academy. KAA is considering staggering its timetable to start and finish at different times to BDA.
“We’re going to be sandwiched between two massive secondary schools,” said a resident of the small Woodman Mews estate. “There is a rationale to the new site which completely stacks up, but there’s been no recognition of the impact on our lives and local infrastructure.”
KAA is negotiating with Transport for London for extra bus services from the Grenfell Tower area to the new site, and is “planning appropriate road safety measures … given the heavy traffic on Wood Lane”, Benson told parents.
The school opened three years ago as an academy specialising in performing and creative arts. It is sponsored by the Aldridge Foundation, which is responsible for eight academies.