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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Outwood Riverside Academy delays: MP slams slow progress on much-needed school construction

Ongoing delays in building a new school for Middlesbrough have been slammed by the town’s MP, who said: “We’d be banging our heads against the wall if they’d only built one.”

Andy McDonald questioned whether the long-awaited Outwood Riverside Academy would be built quicker than “some of civilisation’s greatest constructions”. On current form, he said it could take longer than the Colosseum in Rome, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and the Parthenon in Athens, built by the Ancient Greeks in nine years.

The need for the school was first identified in 2018. Mr McDonald noted, that six years on, there had not been a single spade in the ground while it took just two years to build the Eiffel Tower in Paris, three years for the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and four years to erect the Millennium Dome in London.

The initial hope was to open the 900-place school next to Middlesbrough College in Middlehaven by 2023.  The completion date was then pushed back to 2026 due to the pandemic and the retendering of a DfE contract to build the school.

Along with the Deputy Mayor at Middlesbrough Council and Executive member for education, Cllr Philippa Storey, Mr McDonald has pushed the Department of Education to speed up the process. Since the school opened in 2020, pupils have been taught in temporary premises on Russell Street in Middlesbrough.

Parents have now learned the site cannot accommodate additional pupils starting in September and year seven students will be taught almost five miles away at the site of the former Eston Park Academy. Mr McDonald the situation was “absolutely maddening” and left hundreds of children looking set to spend their entire secondary school education in temporary accommodation, which he said was “not right nor fair”.

He added: “That is not to criticise anyone at the school. The staff and pupils at Outwood Riverside are an absolute credit to themselves and the school.

“The Department for Education need to get this sorted and get it sorted now. We’d be banging our heads against the wall if they’d only built one.”

As reported, a letter from principals was posted on the school’s Facebook page, saying they were “delighted” to secure the Eston site for the school’s September intake. Parents were told the temporary accommodation would feature classrooms, PE and dining facilities while free transport would be provided to and from Russell Street with a journey time of 10 to 15 minutes.

Some parents criticised the timing of the announcement, stating it did not give them time to change their school choices for children due to start in September. The Department of Education has been contacted for comment.

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