DfE reviewing all Caledonian Modular work over safety fears

The Department for Education (DfE) says it is reviewing all work carried out by Caledonian Modular after three schools it delivered have had to be closed due to fears over structural and fire safety.

As Construction News reported yesterday, Haygrove School in Somerset and Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Essex were closed following surveys.

It has since emerged that Buckton Fields Primary School in Northampton has also been told by the DfE that it cannot open when the new school year starts in two weeks, with children having to be taught at a different school’s site.

A spokesperson for the department said that structural defects relating to “poor workmanship” had been found at the facilities and plans would be made on how to “repair or replace” them.

They said there were “numerous problems” including those relating to structural and fire safety. They added that the buildings were not built in accordance with their design and the department could not provide assurance that they were safe to occupy.

Earlier this year, two schools in Cornwall part-built by Caledonian Modular – Newquay Primary Academy and Launceston Primary School – were demolished before construction was completed.

The DfE is reviewing all of its contracts to identify where Caledonian Modular was involved, and has raised the issue with other government departments.

According to its last published accounts, Caledonian turned over £45.3m in the year to 31 March 2020.

Figures obtained by CN under the Freedom of Information Act show that in 2021/22 it was the 11th largest contractor for the DfE, earning £18m in the year.

It was appointed to the department’s modular schools framework in 2020, promising to use “high levels of offsite completion to reduce risk, save time and really optimise speed and efficiency of school design and delivery”.

Caledonian was also the Ministry of Justice’s 11th largest contractor in 2021/22, receiving £3.1m from the department.

The firm filed for administration in March 2022. Its assets, including a modular factory – but not the company – were subsequently bought by JRL Group.

Earlier this month, housing association Notting Hill Genesis announced a £72m programme of works to bring the Paragon Estate in Brentford, west London, back into occupation.

The student blocks, which contained 1,000 people, were evacuated in October 2020 because of structural and fire-safety defects. Berkeley First delivered the buildings, using offsite techniques delivered by Caledonian.

Labour education minister Bridget Phillipson said on X: “Buildings crumbling. Teachers missing. Standards slipping.

“It is shocking that schools built just months ago are not safe for students. Ministers should be ashamed. Term hasn’t even started yet but the Tories are already failing our children.”

Lib Dem education spokesperson Munira Wilson said: “Every school that shuts is a concrete sign of Conservative neglect of our public services. We need an urgent investigation to identify any more buildings affected, so that parents can trust that their child is safe at school.”

The DfE spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of pupils and teachers, which is why we assess school buildings regularly to make sure they meet our high standards.

“Following surveys conducted at our request, we have identified concerns with building work carried out by a specific contractor that is no longer in business.

“We are working closely with school leaders on temporary measures to safely accommodate pupils and minimise the disruption to their learning.”

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