End in sight for school upgrade

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A MASSIVE school upgrade is finally set for completion six months over deadline due to asbestos fears.

The £12m modernisation of St Wildfrid’s RC College in Temple Park Road, South Shields, should have finished last spring.

But the existence of asbestos – spotted in early site surveys in 2009 – hampered progress.

Education chiefs insist the delay was unavoidable to ensure its safe removal from one section of the school at a time.

They claim it was impossible to do intrusive surveys into brick and mortar while the school was occupied.

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We have to wait until each section is vacated to carry out these surveys safely.

“This has not affected the pupils, who posted record GCSE results. They are already benefiting from most aspects of the refurbishment.

“We believe that providing pupils with a world-class learning environment will inspire them to fulfil their potential.”

The site’s developer, Wolverhampton-based Carillion, has suffered no financial penalty for the delay.

No penalty clauses were attached to the design and build contract.

A Carillion spokeswoman said: “We couldn’t do anything intrusive, and had to wait until every section had been completed.”

St Wilfrid’s is the second school to suffer recent asbestos-related hold-ups.

The discovery of the material led to a three-month delay to the £25m redevelopment of Harton Technology College in South Shields, after engineers found it under classroom floorboards in the Edwardian-built school.

Work on buildings at St Wilfrid’s is due to be finished later this month.

External works, including playing fields and schoolyards, are now starting.

Other work will continue on-site with the construction of a new £5.5m special school.

It is one of two special schools being built in South Tyneside after £15m of funding was won through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme.

The council fought to regain cash for the projects after the Government pulled the plug on the BSF budget last year.

The £9.5m second school is under construction on the site of Bedewell Primary in Hebburn.

gareth.crickmer@northeast-press.co.uk