Engineers complete structural inspection of Fordley Primary School in North Tyneside after concrete fell from ceiling

A report by engineers has found the concrete block segment that fell from the ceiling at a North Tyneside primary school was “a historical, isolated issue,” according to the council.
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The incident at Fordley Primary School in Dudley in December led to part of the school being closed, an investigation by North Tyneside Council, and a review of the safety of all school sites in the borough.

This review found further similar construction with visual signs of weakness that required investigation at Churchill Community College, Hazlewood Primary School, and Grasmere Academy, prompting partial closures of these schools. These checks are ongoing.

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A report by structural engineers Narro into Fordley, on behalf of the council, has found that the concrete mix used when the affected section of the school was built in the 1960s, formed into hollow blocks, was weak, brittle, and susceptible to cracking.

Part of Fordley Primary School is currently closed due to safety concerns. (Photo by Google)Part of Fordley Primary School is currently closed due to safety concerns. (Photo by Google)
Part of Fordley Primary School is currently closed due to safety concerns. (Photo by Google)

When one block cracks it forms a weakness that potentially causes other blocks in the same row to crack slowly over time, which impacts isolated areas of the construct and does not impact a building’s overall stability.

This ‘hollow concrete block and plank’ construction method is no longer used in the UK. The issue is not related to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

The council said all schools have regular inspections and maintenance programmes in order to comply with health and safety law, but that these checks would not have flagged the issue that led to the incident at Fordley.

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Julie Firth, director of children’s services at North Tyneside Council, said: “I would like to thank the communities at the affected schools for their patience. We know this has been disruptive and difficult.

“We are so proud of how the pupils are adapting and carrying on with their education, and that is testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff.

“A lot of the short-term solutions would not have been possible without the coming together of the wider school and education community across North Tyneside, who have undertaken some serious reshuffling to temporarily host pupils and their teachers from other schools.

“We are working with the school leaders and Department for Education on longer term solutions.”

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Current teaching arrangements at Fordley, where some students are taught in a safe part of the site and others are bused to Greenfields Community Primary School in Wideopen and North Gosforth Academy in Seaton Burn, will continue until at least the Easter holiday.

Modular classrooms have been ordered for the school and will allow students to return to the school site during the summer term.

All pupils at Churchill Community College have returned to face-to-face learning, but year seven are still using part of the site at Monkseaton High School and some year eight classes are using part of the site at Norham High School. Other classes are still based at the Wallsend school.

Hazlewood Primary School pupils returned to face-to-face learning on Monday, March 4, either in non-affected parts of the school, in a temporary, heated marquee, or using the Air Cadets and Wideopen Library buildings.

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Replacement temporary toilet facilities have been installed at the school after the initial units provided by the council’s supplier were deemed substandard.

Grasmere Academy pupils returned to face-to-face learning in the school’s unaffected single storey building from Monday, March 4.