Kids forced to wear coats in class at school with no heating or hot food

Pupils are wearing coats in the classroom and coming home hungry at a run-down primary school with no heating or hot food.

Parents of children at Riverside Primary school in Wirral, Merseyside, say it ‘isn’t fit for the 21st century’ and needs to be rebuilt.

Parts of the ceiling collapsed following stormy weather earlier this month. The leaking roof is the latest in a string of problems after the kitchen fan broke, meaning hot dinners have not been served this term.

The ageing building also has no heating due to issues with the 1970s boilers which are so old replacement parts can’t be bought.

Wirral Council said it is working to address the defects but parents say this is a ‘sticking plaster’ approach and want the Government to intervene.

Jen Minnis, whose 7-year-old son Alfie attends the school, told ‘We are campaigning for the Prime Minister to provide emergency funding for the school to be rebuilt as it’s falling apart because it’s so old. One [part] is from 1901 and the other the 1970s.

‘Children are sitting with their coats on in class as the boiler is so old it’s been condemned and there are no parts available anymore.

‘The kitchen appliances are also broken which means the children are not able to have hot meals. And [last Monday] with Storm Aiden raging at the weekend, the rain leaked into the building. It’s not acceptable.’

Jen, 29, stressed that the school was still ‘brilliant’ and had won a number of awards for the quality of its teaching.

But she fears the problems with the building will harm the childrens’ education if they continue into the winter months.

Although the school is providing cold lunches she said her son often comes home starving. She said she feared for pupils whose only hot meal was the one usually provided by the school, which is in an area of high deprivation.

‘We are a deprived area and we feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall,’ said Jen.

‘There are lots of kids on free school dinners, many rely on that hot meal. With the winter coming up they need hot food to keep their energy up.

‘Children are being let down by the Government. The school is not fit for the 21st Century.’

Parents have set up a GoFundme page to raise money for repairs, with £2,000 raised already.

Pupils have also got involved with the Rebuild Riverside campaign by making video appeals begging Boris Johnson for a new school.

One video filmed in July documented problems with leaks and the boiler. Pupils said they could no longer play games in the PE hall as the ceiling tiles were at risk of falling down and said 60 girls and boys were sharing one toilet between them in one of the buildings.

The other video filmed in September addressed problems with the kitchen, which is so old it can only get a four-star hygiene rating no matter how clean it is.

Directly addressing the PM, the children described the conditions as ‘abysmal’ and ‘unacceptable’.

But their calls for the school to be rebuilt have fallen on deaf ears.

Although the Government launched a £1 billion rebuild schools programme in June, head of Riverside Primary Christina Lahive said this is being targeted at academies.

The Department for Education (DfE) said local authorities (LA) receive an annual allocation for maintaining and improving LA maintained schools.

But Ms Lahive said repairs funded by the council, though welcome, are only a short-term fix.

She urged the Government to include the school in its rebuild programme, pointing out that the DfE has previously identified Riverside as requiring significant investment ‘due to a number of Condition and Suitability issues’.

She said: ‘An attempt to rebuild the school under the Priority School Building Programme was unsuccessful in 2014. The building has two sites one dating back to Victorian times and the other the early 1970s.

‘The Local Authority is helping us with some short term solutions with the heating and ventilation however, we are constantly faced with issues due to the age of the building.

‘We were delighted to hear the Government’s announcement £1bn for the re-development of schools’ project and would like to be given the same consideration as the academies have been given in applying for this funding which Riverside so desperately needs.’

The headteacher said the generosity from the local community was ‘overwhelming’ but that it shouldn’t be down to parents to pay for basic educational needs.

‘Anyone who has ever visited Riverside will tell you that we have created the most beautiful and happy places for children to learn,’ she added.

‘The parent body forms a very vibrant and supportive part of the school community; such is their enthusiasm that one of the parents, unsolicited, set up a Gofund Me page to help the school.

‘As overwhelming as the generosity of the parents is, it is a sad situation, particularly in these difficult times, that parents have to raise money for what should be their children’s entitlement.’

Cllr Wendy Clements, Chair of the Children, Education and Young People Committee on Wirral Council, said she was aware of longstanding issues with the building.

She said the council was developing detailed plans for the refurbishment and redevelopment of the site in the short and medium term, with work to address ventilation, heating and broken kitchen appliances nearing completion.

She said the sale of two former schools, once completed, will allow more than £1.25 million to be invested into the Riverside Primary redevelopment.

She added: ‘Over the last 10 years, the Council has already invested £400,000 through the DfE grant into Riverside Primary School. Work is also due to start shortly on a project to enhance Nursery/F1 provision at Riverside with a further investment of £200,000.’

In a statement provided to the Liverpool Echo, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: ‘To help ensure the school estate is safe and supports a high-quality education, we have announced an extra £560 million for school refurbishment this year on top of more than £1.4 billion of school condition funding already committed in 2020-21.

‘Local authorities receive an annual allocation to invest in maintaining and improving their school buildings. Wirral local authority has been allocated £3.56m in financial year 2020-21 to invest in its schools, including Riverside Primary.’ has contacted the DfE for further comment.

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