An Essex school has been forced to close until after Christmas due to concerns about asbestos. The King Edmund School in Rochford has been closed since November 14 after the Department for Education (DfE) made them aware that traces of asbestos has been unexpectedly found in a demolished building.

The school has not been open since and has been providing online lessons for students. Letters seen by EssexLive today (November 22), however, show that the school will not be reopened until after Christmas.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Jonathan Osborn said: “While I understand that this is necessary, we are very disappointed, as staff are desperate to return to normal school life and to normal lessons. We are now working at speed with the DfE and Essex County Council to put in place the best provision we can for the remainder of this term.”

It continues: “The DfE have reassured us that they will be able to allow us into the school at the end of this week so that we can collect belongings, resources and equipment. This will put us in a much stronger position to move to live lessons from Monday, 28th November 2022. We are also looking closely at how best to support students for those who need it – for example, our SEND students.”

Another letter, written by Luke Kennedy, part of the Department for Education, reveals more than 200 points are being tested by specialist staff across the school site. Results should be available later this week.

It says: “We had initially hoped that it might be possible to reopen the school as early as this week. However, having discussed the matter with internal experts and having consulted Oracle Solutions, the specialist company we have appointed, we concluded that a full enhanced programme of testing should take place. We took this decision to offer the school and community as much assurance as possible.”

“I know that the school community will have questions,” the letter continues. “All air tests conducted so far have not given any results that cause concern, but we will of course be better able to answer questions once testing is fully completed.

“We appreciate this will be frustrating, but we need to wait for the full test results so we can understand the full picture. However, we are clear that there were some traces of asbestos on the ground in the fenced off area where the demolished building was sited.”

Further on, Mr Kennedy says: “I am sorry to say that this will mean closing the school site for much longer, for the next four weeks, meaning it will not reopen until after Christmas. I know this will be very frustrating for the whole school community.

“However, I believe this is the right approach as this will mean that we can give you, your staff, parents and children the most assurance possible that the site is safe and reassurance that there is no scope for further issues relating to this area.”

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