Falling to pieces after 100 years

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The Independent Online
LAST MONTH a 10-year-old boy at Drayton Green primary school in Ealing, west London, was taken to hospital in an air ambulance after a piece of metal drainpipe weighing 70lb fell on him as he played football in the playground.

His fellow pupils were said to be traumatised as they gathered around his motionless figure on the ground.

Four weeks later he has returned to the school. Peter Brandreth, one of the school's parent governors, said yesterday: "It is a miracle he is alive. The whole experience has been horrendous, both for children and parents. It is the result of 50 years of neglect of school buildings."

When local education authority officers examined the Victorian building, they found that all the window frames were rotten and that another piece of metal drainpipe was loose. The library had to be closed because the ceiling was coming down.

While the Health and Safety Executive investigates, the authority has made the school safe. Perspex covers the unsafe windows and dangerous drainpipes have been removed. Parents are still anxious.

Bethan Marshall, who has two children there, said: "The school dealt brilliantly with the incident but you could see the children looking up at the fabric of the building when they returned. It's not something a school should have to deal with.

"I question whether a bidding system is sufficient to deal with this. The local authority has put in a bid for New Deal money but can give no guarantee that they will get it."

Drayton Green is far from being the only school in trouble. Alan Parker, Ealing's director of education, says nearly all of the council's 90 schools need attention and that some are in an even worse state than Drayton Green. Work has already begun in a number of schools.

Mr Parker said: "We could comfortably spend pounds 60m without being profligate. We did a lot of work on immediate safety at Drayton Green. It no longer represents a hazard, but we would like to do a big refurbishment."

Judith Judd