Primary school could shut for weeks this winter

A Canterbury academy will have to close for weeks when a faulty boiler breaks down, the headteacher said.

St. Stephens Junior School in Hales Drive has three boilers to provide both heating and hot water. One has already been condemned as it is too old to be repaired.

Another boiler is leaking:

When it stops working, the school will get so cold it might have to close until a new boiler is installed.

The school does not have enough funds to replace the appliance. They asked central government for funding, but were told they will not receive any help until their faulty boiler stops working completely.

Mr Pywell warned: ‘If it broke down today we would probably have to close the school until after Christmas. The children would not get any education. But what I’m more concerned about is the parents who won’t be able to find alternative childcare for their kids.’

When the leaking boiler fails, the school will need to find a contractor and have a new venting system installed. In total they might need to close for a whole month.


Insufficient funding

St. Stephen’s Junior School receives two million pounds a year from central government, which is not enough to operate the school.

To add to their budget, they raise 250,000 pounds a year by running a nursery and an after-school club and by letting buildings.

It is still not enough.

Over the last three years the school’s budget has been cut by 20 per cent due to increased pension and national insurance charges and by an additional 2 per cent due to inflation.

As a result the school did not replace the five teachers supporting children with special needs who left in the last two years.

These students are usually entitled to additional support and funding, but at the moment the government is not accepting any bids. Two new children with special needs started at St. Stephen’s this year. ‘We had to find money within our own funds,’ explained the headteacher, ‘which are very tight already.’

He added: ‘I don’t think the government has any money to fund us, and I think that lots of schools are in a similar position to us.‘

‘But whilst the state makes savings on the short term, when we need to invest in the infrastructures, there is not enough money for that.’