Pupils miss start of term as Sunderland’s first free school fails to open on time

Grindon Hall Christian School looking very much a hard-hat area as building work continues.
Grindon Hall Christian School looking very much a hard-hat area as building work continues.
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HUNDREDS of pupils at Sunderland’s first free school will start this year’s term late after a £3million extension wasn’t finished in time.

Bosses say that contractors have not delivered “a safe building or site” in time for the start of the new term at Grindon Hall Christian School, in Pennywell.

A 14-classroom primary school building is not yet completed, with a drive and one-way system leading up to the Nookside site yet to be done.

Senior children were to start back at Grindon Hall on Thursday, with primary school children originally due back next Monday.

Parents of more than 500 children who attend the school were told about the decision in a letter.

Pupils will now return on Monday, September 23.

School principal Chris Gray apologised for the delay, but said he did not imagine the shortened term having a huge an impact on youngsters’ education.

“It’s not unprecedented for things like this happen,” said Mr Gray.

“This is hugely inconvenient for everyone but we clearly must have a properly-commissioned building to move into and be 100 per cent confident regarding the safety of all children and staff.

“Governors and I realise that this will cause inconvenience for many parents and would offer our apologies.

“It is regrettable because we would have to loved to have opened it on time.

“But for the sake of an extra week or so we feel it was the right decision.”

Grindon Hall, which caters for pupils aged four to 18, became a free school last September after successfully applying to the Department of Education (DfE).

It means that it is now independent of control from Sunderland City Council.

“The new building is essential so that we can provide for the children,” added Mr Gray.

“When this project is finished it will be wonderful for the 550 children we have on our books.

“It is the type of accommodation that children in this part of the world deserve.”

Mr Gray also said that those students entering their GCSE and A-Level studies would be helped to make up any teaching time missed.

“For children with exams this year, we are putting together a plan to provide them with as much support as we can,” he said.

“We are providing longer school days than many other schools as we teach from 8.20am to 4pm, so I don’t think our children are missing out too much.

“We will do all we can to get work out to children who are at a crucial stage of their education.”