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A Newcastle MP has demanded urgent talks with the Government over “totally unacceptable” delays to the building of a new school.
Catherine McKinnell says that the latest setbacks at the Great Park Academy will “cause huge concern and anxiety for parents”. It emerged this week that the middle and secondary school will not be moving into its long-awaited permanent home until summer 2025, after a Department for Education procurement process failed to find a contractor to build it.
The latest delay to the proposed site on the Newcastle Great Park estate, which was meant to open in 2020, means that youngsters are forced to continue learning in the school’s temporary accommodation at Gosforth Academy. Ms McKinnell, who represents the Newcastle North constituency, has called for a meeting with schools minister Nick Gibb to address the impact of the severe hold-ups.
Read More: Huge blow for Newcastle families as opening of long-awaited new school pushed back to 2025
The Labour MP said: “The further delay, as a result of the Department for Education’s processes, is deeply frustrating and I know will cause huge concern and anxiety for parents. Earlier this year, I met with the Gosforth Group, and raised the matter in Parliament, securing a meeting with the then schools minister on this issue.
“In light of the news, I have asked for an urgent meeting with the current schools minister. I will continue to support pupils, parents, and the school in pressing the Department for Education to resolve these issues urgently and ensure that the funding and support is put in place to ensure our young people are not disadvantaged as a result of these totally unacceptable delays.”
The academy opened at the temporary buildings in 2021, with education chiefs needing to address an urgent shortage of school places in Newcastle. Previous delays to the new school being built were caused by a prolonged planning battle over the next phase of development at the Great Park and then the disruption resulting from the Covid pandemic.
In a newsletter for parents, school principal Denise Waugh and CEO Hugh Robinson said they were “very disappointed” by the latest setback and that the Department for Education (DfE) was “working as quickly as possible to complete the new procurement process and aim for construction to start as soon as the main contract is awarded”. Work is now due to begin in autumn 2023, ready for the school to open in the summer of 2025.
The school leaders insisted that they would “continue to provide an excellent learning experience” and that students would have access to specialist teaching areas within Gosforth Academy and other Gosforth Group schools. The DfE was asked to provide a comment but had not responded at time of writing.
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