Delay hits opening of Swiss Cottage special school’s new building
A Swiss Cottage special needs school is swallowing its disappointment after its move to new state-of-the-art premises is delayed beyond the start of the school year.
Rather than moving to a plush new campus on Monday (September 10), pupils from Swiss Cottage Specialist SEN School will be in temporary accommodation on a range of sites including The Avenue, Brondesbury Park, until the beginning of October.
Camden Council claim they were only informed on Friday (August 31) by BAM, the contractor responsible for building and operating the new school building in Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage, that it would not be ready for the start of the autumn term.
BAM had promised the council the building would be ready on time, even though neighbouring UCL Academy’s move into its new building on the same site was delayed after a sub-contractor, electrical company Airedale Electrical, went into administration in July.
BAM has said the new school will be available for the staff to occupy by September 24 and will be ready to admit children by October 1.
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The council and BAM are working with an independent professional expert to ensure that the building will be safe and fit to occupy.
The council claimed senior officers have been pressing BAM for confirmation that the building would be ready on time for a number of months.
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Cllr Angela Mason, cabinet member for children, said: “I am deeply disappointed. We had written assurances from the highest level within BAM that the opening of the school would be on schedule.
“We have now learned that it will in fact be delayed. This is clearly unacceptable and I am aware that this news will be desperately disappointing to parents and children.
“The contract requires BAM to provide the school with suitable temporary accommodation at their own cost until the new building is ready.
“Because these are children with special needs, and because BAM did not admit to the delay earlier, it is unable to meet this requirement. “The council is working closely with the school, and we will do everything in our power to support the families and children affected by the delay.”
Peter Sprinz, chairman of governors at Swiss Cottage Specialist SEN School, said: “The governing body is dismayed at the situation our pupils and families now face.
“Every family will be contacted personally to discuss the individual arrangements for their child.”
But Mr Sprinz remained positive despite the setback.
“Our families will have a difficult three weeks but the new school building is extraordinary,” he said. “I am certain that when they and their children come to the new Swiss Cottage School they will be overwhelmed by the facilities and opportunities on offer.”
Headteacher Kay Bedford was also positive. She said: “My staff and I are really looking forward to welcoming pupils to the new school and teaching in the new state of the art facilities.”
A spokesman for BAM said: “BAM’s priority is to hand over buildings which are properly ready for occupation and fully safe for pupils, parents and staff.
“The only reason this has not been possible, as originally planned, is the substantial problems the project has suffered as a result of major sub-contractor, Airedale Electrical, going into receivership at a critical phase of the programme, leaving an enormous range of mechanical and electrical problems behind.
“Until this happened in May the schools were on programme.”
Parents of children attending the school will be informed individually about the programme for their child, and daily updates will be available at www.camden.gov.uk/scss.