Head makes plea to government for £12m to fix Portsmouth school

11/10/11     AN''Brian McClarin, exec headteacher at King Richard School in Paulsgrove.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (113591-2)
11/10/11 AN''Brian McClarin, exec headteacher at King Richard School in Paulsgrove.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (113591-2)
Newbridge Junior School Picture: Maria Bujor

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A HEADTEACHER forced to make half a million pounds of repairs to his school after a disastrous summer has demanded £12m from the government for a complete rebuild.

Brian McClarin, 58, of King Richard School in Paulsgrove, says he will have to make staff cuts if the school keeps having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds each year on repairs.

The scale of problems that struck King Richard this summer is staggering.

Drains collapsed and flooded the science and maths blocks as well as the English corridor. Then the roof over the science block collapsed.

Pipes were changed because they were leaving the drinking water stagnant, creating a risk of Legionella germs.

And the central heating system was removed as it wasn’t venting properly – meaning that if the wind blew in a certain direction carbon monoxide fumes would drift into the school.

Mr McClarin is still smarting from the last-minute axing of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme last June, which saw schools across the area, including King Richard, lose out on millions of pounds’ worth of funding for buildings.

Mr McClarin said: ‘Our school is performing well but huge problems with the buildings are working against us.

‘Government ministers have visited us but because we fix things immediately they think we’re in great shape.

‘We need a new building but we aren’t high on the government’s agenda – their priorities are areas lacking school places and free schools.

‘But we pay at least £200,000 on maintenance each year and this summer’s disasters meant the council had to step in with emergency reserves.

‘If our funding is reduced further we won’t be able to retain the existing number of staff.

‘The school is like a car on its last legs. We are throwing away good money after bad.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has written to education minister Lord Hill urging him to help.

The government is releasing £2bn for school capital funding projects and King Richard will find out if its bid to knock down the current building and build a new one has been successful by January.

It is a shadow of the £19m BSF plans that included state-of-the-art sports and leisure facilities.

Mr McClarin said: ‘Losing BSF was ghastly, it was like the death of someone.

‘People in Paulsgrove and Wymering are proud of their community and they are proud of this school, but we lack facilities. Cameron’s government with its Big Society push needs to back communities like this one.’

Mr McClarin, who is retiring next year, added: ‘This is my last fight.

‘But if it doesn’t work I won’t look back and say it wasn’t for want of trying.’

Miss Mordaunt said: ‘I’ve made it very clear to Lord Hill and the secretary of state that if they are going to do one thing for Portsmouth this is what it needs to be.’