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5,000 pupils are still in temporary rooms
Buy this photo » St Christopher’s Primary headteacher Alison Holden with the temporary classrooms at the school. Picture: OX62924 Antony Moore
WHILE the possible number of pupils being taught in temporary classrooms has fallen, the county’s school estate is far from fully modernised for the future.
Figures reveal the potential number of children being taught in temporary accommodation has dropped by about 12 per cent in three years.
In 2010, there were up to 5,815 children being taught in county schools in temporary classrooms, while by this June that had dropped nearly 700 to 5,129.
There are 83,838 children in special, primary and secondary state schools in the county, so that represents up to six per cent, or one in 16, children. Latest figures were not available.
Council spokesman Owen Morton said: “We are certainly making efforts to provide more permanent classrooms as part of our work to increase the capacity of schools, although temporary classrooms necessarily continue to play a role, as they do across the country.
“Often temporary classrooms are brought in while building work on new, permanent accommodation is carried out, then removed upon its completion.
“All the current school expansions being delivered by the council will ultimately consist of permanent buildings.”
While good teaching is not dependent on environment, teachers say tatty surroundings can have an impact on morale and engagement of students, while such buildings cost more to maintain and it is harder to control temperatures. Oxford Spires Academy will lose the last of its temporary classrooms in September.
Headteacher Sue Croft said: “There is no doubt an inspiring environment raises students’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
“It does make a difference in terms of behaviour and high expectations.”
At Faringdon Community College, about 25 per cent of all teaching is done in the school’s 12 temporary classrooms.
The school is planning a redevelopment with a new £3.5m 12 classroom block, a funding bid for which will be submitted this autumn.
Business manager John Banbrook said of the classrooms: “They are all beyond their useful life.
“We do have children taught in temporary classrooms that are falling to pieces and we do our best with funding to keep them warm and dry. “It’s a case of patching and repairs and that can’t go on indefinitely.”
St Christopher's Primary School, Cowley, currently has 60 children in three-year-old temporary classrooms but the structures will be replaced by new build in February.
Headteacher Alison Holden said: “They are fit for purpose and they are a good learning environment.
“We have the old problems that they are very cold in winter and in summer they get ever so hot.”
Those concerns were echoed by Andrew Hamilton, headteacher at Bartholomew School, Eynsham.
He said: “It’s not an ideal learning environment and we are very short of classroom space overall.”
He said the school had submitted a bid for additional classroom funding but was waiting to hear back.
Wheatley Park School, Holton, has three temporary classrooms, one of which dates to the 1970s, and are used mostly for small group working.
Headteacher Kate Curtis said: “It's not a problem for us because it gives us flexibility we would not have without them.”
Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member Melinda Tilley said the figures showed an effort by the council to press the Government on the council’s basic need budget for permanent classrooms.
She said: “It’s never easy but it has been reasonably successful.”
Science labs fit for purpose, says head
Larkmead School, Abingdon, has 60 children being taught in two science classrooms which are more than 20 years old.
It has also just completed a new, state-of-the-art dance studio – which with a shelf-life of 30 years also technically constitutes a temporary building.
Headteacher Chris Harris said: “They were really quite high spec temporary buildings and are ironically probably our best labs and we actually don’t have problems with them.”
He said the new dance studio cost in the region of £400,000 – while a ‘permanent’ structure would have cost twice that.
He said: “The cost of building one that would last twice that period of time is prohibitive.
“I suspect what’s happening is the old temporary buildings are going away because they are not fit for purpose but there are a lot of modular buildings that are actually cheaper than brick built structures.
“In that sense they are temporary but are perfectly fit for purpose.”
Temporary buildings are ‘better than none at all’
Banbury Academy has two temporary buildings in use, one about 20 years old, which is now used mainly as a drama storage area, and the other ten years old.
Principal Fiona Hammans said: “When you have pressure in terms of numbers of pupils and you are expanding to meet their needs you are just desperate to get somewhere to put them and a temporary classroom is better than no classroom.
“They are supposed to be temporary and down the line they should be replaced as they start to look tatty and they start rotting away and take a huge amount to keep them up to standard.
“There isn't really a mechanism to replace them – we haven't got any anticipated funding coming from the council or Government because our need is not as great as some other schools.”
She estimated the older classrooms cost between £4,500 and £8,000 per year in maintenance costs, including painting, repairing, roofing, boiler work and fox damage.
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