Friday, 16 September 2011

Primary expansion programme hit by delays

Brent's primary school expansion programme has had a patchy start this month. Preston Manor Primary School is not yet ready and will not be completed until half-term. Places have been offered instead at the temporary building in Ashley Gardens and the children will transfer later. Not the best start for young children settling into school for the first time.

Building work at Brentfield Primary which is expanding has been disrupted because asbestos has been found resulting in part of the building being cordoned off. It is reported that some parents have temporarily removed their children from the school because they fear for their safety.

Brent personnel are dealing with the issue as a priority and there may be an impact on the timetable for completion of some of the 'bulge' classes being installed for the children currently without a school place.

Although the asbestos find is a one off, the problems do draw attention to the impact of cuts on Council services. School building works used to be managed by the Asset Management department of Children and Families  but to increase efficiency this was merged with other council departments to create the Major Projects and Regeneration Department. However at the same time a number of posts were deleted and key staff were lost from the Asset Management department. Insiders report that although the merger has resulted in a more coherent strategy that staff are considerably over-stretched due to the large number of projects underway.  Time pressures on the provision of more school places and the variety and number of the projects undertaken means that when something goes wrong it has a knock-on effect.

It would be interesting to know if the savings made by the staffing reduction have been exceeded by the additional costs of delayed projects. The social cost of children not attending school whilst hard to express in financial terms must also be taken into account.

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