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  • H Pomfret & N Archell-Green

Digging Flood Defences While Roofs Leak

Roofs at KTS have been leaking for years, despite the best efforts of the overworked site team. Despite the disruptive and harmful nature of this issue, the Government funded an expensive flood defence. NewsKnight searched for the logic in this decision. N Archell-Green and H Pomfret investigate


New flood defences at KTS which were awarded before fixing roofs
Severe leaking in K9 during this winter

Over the past few years there have been far too many reported leaks at KTS, especially in K Block, T Block and D&T. Brown stains on ceilings, musty smell of damp, buckets catching drips etc are all commonplace in KTS - especially when it rains. 

In the last year, many students and teachers alike have noticed huge failings in our school architecture. Most notably, there were severe leakages in K9 (see pictures). Our site team worked tirelessly to fix leaks in the dilapidated roofs to finally bring the problem under control. They then worked to fix the leaking damage, doing an excellent job, but surely schools should expect roofs that don’t allow rainwater to cascade into classrooms? T-Block, despite only being built in 1999, is a condemned building due to the increasingly troubling problem of roofs leaking. 


The K Block roofs have been in a bad state for years and happened near the start of the academic year, giving the government time over the summer holidays to resolve the issue in a child-free environment, especially with nationwide school inspections taking place around the same time in the wake of the RAAC concrete crisis. Surely KTS’ infrastructure safety concerns could have been resolved at the same time?


Earlier in the year, despite the pressing nature of this affair, students began noticing holes being dug in the waste ground next to the tech block and staff car park. Amongst the student body, confusion was palpable. Many were perplexed at the nature of the decision to pour the time and resources of the KTS site team into digging holes for flood defences, rather than ensuring no further KTS learning spaces were likely to collapse. 


Head Prefect Laila Akram noted: “I was very confused when I walked into school and saw the holes being dug for the flood defences, especially with the recent leakages. I think the decision needs to be re-assessed.”


In March 2024, former Chancellor Jeremy Hunt revealed that Department for Education (DfE) spending would only rise by 1% for the day-to-day running of schools due the pressure on the government to increase the wages of teachers. This increase was far below the then steep rate of inflation, leaving schools across the country with a “£1.5bn blackhole” in funds (according to Schools Week).


Year 12 student Henry Pomfret contacted former North East Herts MP, Sir Oliver Heald, to explain the logic of building flood defences instead of solving the more pressing issue of the leaks, and to question the government’s position on educational funding. He was kind enough to give us this reply:

When discussing the issue of flood defences, it must be noted that due to the ongoing climate change crisis, the increasingly extreme weather conditions have made excess rainfall, and therefore flooding, more likely. In the winter of 2023/2024 more than 2000 UK homes were flooded, highlighting the pressing nature of this dilemma, and revealing some of the logic behind protecting the school from flooding.

NewsKnight spoke to various teachers and students around the school to see what they thought about the situation:



“Well, I think they should acknowledge the problem, the only reason they haven't so far is because it will cost them money but sometimes you just have to face these problems.” - Mr. Adams on the government's responsibilities.

“Damp air can cause respiratory problems, especially in people with asthma so the leaks need to be fixed, and if the school can’t afford to do that then the government should help.” - Ceris, Student

“I think the government needs to invest some money in order to repair any of the locations that were leaking.” - Year 7 Student

“I think the government should provide extra funding to make repairs, to school grounds, because it will benefit the student's learning environment and give them a better education” - Oliver, Student

Around the school, there is clearly a palpable feeling of discontent over the issue, and with a significant amount of disruption caused by roof leakages, questions must be raised about the amount of and allocation of KTS funding. While it is common knowledge that the school itself is faced with obstacles such as financial constraints, it may well be time for the government to step in to guarantee the safety of our school. Surely maintaining the upkeep of school buildings through government expenditure is a vital part of continuing this?















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Over the past few months, students around the KTS site will have noticed the ever increasing issue of leaking within T-Block and K-Block. While it started off slowly, the amount of water seeping through the ceiling has become a daily inconvenience for students and staff alike. From lighting fixtures being broken in T-block computer suites, to an entire section of the K-block corridor collapsing in on itself! It is apparent that something must be done. But how does this pandemic get resolved? Should the school sanction funding to solve the problem? Or should the government provide educational sites like KTS with designated funds to combat problems like leaking? In this article, I will be looking at different opinions on this issue, coming from both the school itself and from out.

Over the past few weeks, I have travelled around the school and visited some of the areas that have been more noticeably affected by the leaking. The photo to the right shows an area of classroom K9, which only earlier in the academic year was full of buckets and containers to stop leaking from the ceiling. This classroom is used to teach any age of student from year 7 to year 13, so surely it should be adequately fitted to do so? It certainly seems like the English Department would agree.

I asked English teacher Mr. Adams what he had to say about leaking, and who he felt should be responsible in dealing with the problem, given his department are based entirely out of K-block and operate out of classrooms which are griped with similar problems to K9.

It’s clear that the students and staff of KTS want change, and that most people within the school think that it should come from government expenditure. But what does the government have to say about this viewpoint? I managed to interview the conservative MP for Northeast Hertfordshire, Oliver Heald, and had the chance to ask him about how the government supports schools when dealing with problems like leaking. Photo is of a broken lighting fixture in k15, Caused by leaking.

During the interview I wanted to not only get a sense of the government's view towards supporting schools, but to get the conservative view on the matter. Oliver Heald represents the conservative party in the Houses of Commons and interviewing him provided a unique opportunity to gain the view of a specific half of the political spectrum.

Questions -

1.      How does the local government support schools when dealing with issues like leaking e.g. are there systems set up to ensure the schools can remain open?

“Academies such as KTS are not maintained by Councils but are funded by a Government Agency called the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the same basis as schools which are maintained by Hertfordshire County Council. This means your school receives allocations of money to pay for all the ongoing costs such as maintenance work. A detailed explanation is at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/academies-funding-allocations In addition, there is a national school rebuilding programme to completely rebuild schools nearing end of life. School rebuilding programme: schools in the programme - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) Highfield School in Letchworth has been rebuilt. In addition, there is a Condition Improvement Fund where buildings or parts of buildings need rebuilding or major works. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/condition-improvement-fund.”

2.      How does your party intend to support and bolster education in Hertfordshire going forward, as I understand that is an important matter to the government.

“Hertfordshire schools provide very strong educational achievement, especially ‘outstanding’ schools such as KTS. Hertfordshire University has a strong offer too, particularly in business and professional qualifications. Our colleges have well-known specialisms.”

3.      How do you feel personally about the increasing pressure being put on schools in the entire country to support themselves through economic hardship.

“All public services call for extra spending, but education is improving and spending is up.” 

4.      Is there anything you feel that the government could be doing better to support schools economically.

“Government has to decide how to balance spending between departments. This is particularly difficult at present because rightly Britain borrowed heavily to protect 11 million jobs during the pandemic and to help with high energy costs caused by Russia. This borrowed money has to be repaid and interest rates have been high. We are also spending a huge amount extra on the NHS and increasing public spending generally.”

5.      How do you feel about the state of education in the UK as a whole, are there any areas that you think need change or could be done with improvements.

“Britain’s schools are doing better and giving young people what they need, and leadership, teachers and staff deserve to be thanked.”

Oliver Heald also added this comment at the end of the interview -

In conclusion, the issue of leaking within British schools (in particular KTS) is a pressing concern that not only affects the physical infrastructure but also disrupts the learning environment for students and teachers alike. The recent spike of leaks highlights the urgent need for proactive measures to address this problem. While schools strive to maintain their facilities, they often face financial constraints that hinder their ability to carry out necessary repairs and renovations.

In light of this, it is clear to me that the general consensus among students and staff is for the government to step in and provide additional funding to support schools in resolving the issue of leaks. By allocating resources towards infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, the government can ensure that educational institutions have the necessary support to create safe and conducive learning environments for all. Despite Oliver Heald stating that British education in Hertfordshire is of a high quality, I believe settling for this simply isn't good enough, and by investing in the upkeep of school buildings, it is not only a matter of infrastructure but also a commitment to the well-being and future success of students within the county.

 

 


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